About this Research Topic

Manuscript Submission Deadline 31 March 2022
Manuscript Extension Submission Deadline 29 April 2022

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is the largest source of mercury (Hg) emissions and releases worldwide. The breakdown of anthropogenic Hg emissions by sectors shows that the predominant source sector is ASGM that annually releases about 1220 Mg of Hg into the atmosphere, terrestrial and freshwater environments. Over the last 50 years, Hg has been used in ASGM practices in more than 70 countries by approximately 14–19 million people-including 4 to 5 million women and children, employed as miners.

In ASGM, gold is extracted using rudimentary techniques, including the mixing of elemental Hg to bind traces of gold contained in the ore through the panning process. Additionally, cyanide extraction is also used to increase gold recovery. The amalgam is heated using a blowtorch in a processing center, or even in the backyards of houses. Burning the amalgam vaporizes Hg into a gaseous form (elemental Hg) leaving behind gold. The Hg vapors contaminate the environment, which are highly toxic if inhaled by miners or residents living nearby, and contribute to global Hg contamination. During gold recovery, Hg is also released to soil, water, and air, where it is converted to other Hg forms, such as methylmercury (MeHg). Thus, metallic mercury and mercury-cyanide complexes released to the environment have a high possibility to be accumulated into aquatic biota as inorganic Hg and MeHg. Moreover, it is necessary to find a solution to solve the problem generated by mining waste and how to manage it, either through Hg recovery or by using other approaches. Additionally, there is a need to determine the relative amount of Hg in fish in ASGM areas that arise from natural processes (e.g. erosion, wildfires and intentional fires, dispersed sources, hydroelectric dams, etc.) compared to direct inputs from ASGM.

This Research Topic encourages contributions from all around the world and welcomes high-quality original research papers that examine all aspects related to the environmental chemistry, fate, and effects of Hg in the environment due to ASGM activities and its management.

Topics of interest include:

• Environmental Hg pollution in mining communities, and the factors influencing transformations between inorganic and organic forms of Hg (methylation, demethylation, oxidation, reduction), and their transport and fate;
• Studies at the chemical-biological interface that focus on understanding how the chemistry of Hg in all its forms influences biological bioavailability;
• Impact of ASGM on ecosystems, including wildlife, deforestation & land degradation
• Impact of mining waste caused by ASGM and its management
• (Biogeochemical) indicators of Hg pollution and other metal-related impacts in the ASGM context
• Chemical technologies and their policy intervention to decrease the negative impacts of Hg use and release by ASGM

We suggest that at the end of each paper the authors should discuss what can feasibly be done to solve the described problem outlined in the paper.

Professor Heileen Hsu-Kim is a paid Associate Editor for Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, a journal by the Royal Society of Chemistry. All other Topic Editors declare no conflicts of interest.

Keywords: mercury, passive samplers, gold mining, ASGM, artisanal mining, small-scale mining, Hg, environmental chemistry, anthropogenic, pollution, contamination

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is the largest source of mercury (Hg) emissions and releases worldwide. The breakdown of anthropogenic Hg emissions by sectors shows that the predominant source sector is ASGM that annually releases about 1220 Mg of Hg into the atmosphere, terrestrial and freshwater environments. Over the last 50 years, Hg has been used in ASGM practices in more than 70 countries by approximately 14–19 million people-including 4 to 5 million women and children, employed as miners.

In ASGM, gold is extracted using rudimentary techniques, including the mixing of elemental Hg to bind traces of gold contained in the ore through the panning process. Additionally, cyanide extraction is also used to increase gold recovery. The amalgam is heated using a blowtorch in a processing center, or even in the backyards of houses. Burning the amalgam vaporizes Hg into a gaseous form (elemental Hg) leaving behind gold. The Hg vapors contaminate the environment, which are highly toxic if inhaled by miners or residents living nearby, and contribute to global Hg contamination. During gold recovery, Hg is also released to soil, water, and air, where it is converted to other Hg forms, such as methylmercury (MeHg). Thus, metallic mercury and mercury-cyanide complexes released to the environment have a high possibility to be accumulated into aquatic biota as inorganic Hg and MeHg. Moreover, it is necessary to find a solution to solve the problem generated by mining waste and how to manage it, either through Hg recovery or by using other approaches. Additionally, there is a need to determine the relative amount of Hg in fish in ASGM areas that arise from natural processes (e.g. erosion, wildfires and intentional fires, dispersed sources, hydroelectric dams, etc.) compared to direct inputs from ASGM.

This Research Topic encourages contributions from all around the world and welcomes high-quality original research papers that examine all aspects related to the environmental chemistry, fate, and effects of Hg in the environment due to ASGM activities and its management.

Topics of interest include:

• Environmental Hg pollution in mining communities, and the factors influencing transformations between inorganic and organic forms of Hg (methylation, demethylation, oxidation, reduction), and their transport and fate;
• Studies at the chemical-biological interface that focus on understanding how the chemistry of Hg in all its forms influences biological bioavailability;
• Impact of ASGM on ecosystems, including wildlife, deforestation & land degradation
• Impact of mining waste caused by ASGM and its management
• (Biogeochemical) indicators of Hg pollution and other metal-related impacts in the ASGM context
• Chemical technologies and their policy intervention to decrease the negative impacts of Hg use and release by ASGM

We suggest that at the end of each paper the authors should discuss what can feasibly be done to solve the described problem outlined in the paper.

Professor Heileen Hsu-Kim is a paid Associate Editor for Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, a journal by the Royal Society of Chemistry. All other Topic Editors declare no conflicts of interest.

Keywords: mercury, passive samplers, gold mining, ASGM, artisanal mining, small-scale mining, Hg, environmental chemistry, anthropogenic, pollution, contamination


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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