Toxic mercury versus appropriate technology: Artisanal gold miners' retort aversion

Jesper Bosse Jønsson, Elias Charles, Per Kalvig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Mercury-usage in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has accelerated in developing countries during the last thirty years resulting in negative environmental and health impacts. As awareness of mercury contamination from ASGM has grown, a number of strategic initiatives have been introduced to reduce the impact of the toxic substance. The adoption of the retort, a device capable of recycling up to 95 per cent of mercury in gold extraction, constitutes a broadly recognized approach. Based on case-study research in Tanzania, this paper examines an ASGM area, which has been targeted by several mercury-reducing efforts. Based on survey data, key informants interviews, and visitor observations, the paper examines the impact of these efforts on mining techniques and residents' attitudes towards the use of mercury. Despite the seemingly obvious advantages from adopting retorts or other mercury-reducing techniques - economic, environmental, and health-wise - miners continue to use mercury haphazardly, while demonstrating an only limited awareness of the toxicity of the substance. The paper discusses the possible explanations behind this as well as possible ways forward in facilitating the reduction of mercury in ASGM operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-67
Number of pages8
JournalResources Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Appropriate technology
  • Artisanal and small-scale mining
  • Gold
  • Mercury
  • Retort
  • Tanzania

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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