Since at least the time of the ancient Romans, mercury has been used in the mining of gold and silver. Precious metals are usually found in nature among sand and mud and mixed with other nonmetallic elements like sulfur, a problem for miners to which mercury literally was the solution.
Basically, amalgamation is the practice of bringing free gold particles into contact with mercury. When clean gold comes into contact with mercury, the two substances mix to form a compound called amalgam – an amalgam is simply an alloy of gold and mercury. The gold literally is dissolved into the mercury. This allows the collection of very small sized particles of gold. At the end of the ...
Mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining is particularly hazardous, and health effects on vulnerable populations are significant. Non-mercury (non-cyanide) gold-extraction techniques need to be promoted and implemented, and where mercury is still used safer work practices need to be employed to prevent exposure.
Diagram showing mercury-gold extraction process. A blanket can be used to capture gold missed by the mercury-coated copper plate. The ripples of the blanket catch the heavier gold as it is washed over the surface, while the lighter sand is washed away.
Dr. Victoria Mukasa from Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH). MINERALS. Miners, their families and surrounding communities inhale dangerous mercury during the process of gold extraction, say Dr. Victoria Mukasa of Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH).