Golden opportunity

UVic professor shares techniques that could save gold miners’ lives in Third World

Kevin Telmer of the Artisanal Gold Council with a machine that will separate gold from other minerals. The council hopes to aid small scale miners around the world.

You might be Kevin Telmer’s neighbour if you happen to peek over the fence and spot him panning for gold in his backyard.

The Cadboro Bay resident and University of Victoria geochemistry associate professor is honing the techniques he teaches and shares with small-scale and artisanal gold miners in some of the world’s poorest nations, such as Ghana and Tanzania.

For the past 15 years he has shared safer and more efficient mining technologies and practices that improve the health and livelihoods of gold miners, who rely on mercury to extract their gold.

“The mercury they’re using, they’re not aware of the poisonous use of it,” said Telmer, who is on leave from teaching to focus on his Saanich-based non-profit Artisanal Gold Council. He is also a technical advisor to the United Nations, which is negotiating a treaty on mercury use.

“Mercury is a global pollutant,” he said, adding that gold mining and coal burning are the biggest culprits.

Changing the way miners do business is a daunting task, since gold mining supports the livelihoods of more than 50 million people in 70 countries.

“It’s not a mission impossible. There are solutions,” Telmer said.

The miners pour inexpensive liquid mercury into their buckets of heavy minerals and concentrates, which attaches to gold. The labourers use their shirts to squeeze out the excess liquid, forming a small ball that is part mercury, part gold. The ball is heated to remove the mercury, and the miners breathe in the poisonous vapour.

But there are tools they can use to avoid mercury exposure, which can eventually lead to nervous system disorders such as tremors, shaking, loss of coordination, chronic headaches and organ malfunction.

The miners are embracing the use of safer machines that allow them to extract gold at a faster pace, increasing their pay from $2 or $3 to $10 a day in some cases.

“On that basis, the information spreads,” said Telmer.

“We help a community at a time. It’s a lot of work but it feels good.”

To learn more about the council’s advocacy work, field programs and fundraising efforts, please visit www.artisanalgold.org.

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Active police incident in Langford prompts police to request nearby residents stay inside

West Shore RCMP ask public to avoid Station Avenue and Peatt Road area

New sidewalk, bike lane coming to Metchosin Road near Royal Bay

Gablecraft Homes making improvements, moving offices

City of Victoria to hold formal safety review after man was left hanging from raised bridge

More and more people seen ignoring safety measurements in place, city staff say

The Trading Post in Langford is up for sale

For sale sign and retirement sign spotted Tuesday

CRD holding off repairing Sooke Potholes viewing area after winter landslide

Area likely to experience continued failure of slope, officials say

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

POLL: Do you use a food delivery app?

With modern life becoming more hectic with each passing day and so… Continue reading

Vancouver Island teacher suspended for professional misconduct

Grade 8 shop teacher admits to use of vulgar language and profanities toward students, parents

Northern B.C. double homicide, suspicious death: A timeline of what we know

Two teens from Port Alberni are now wanted Canada-wide in connection to the three deaths

B.C. wine industry legend Harry McWatters dies

Among his accomplishments, McWatters founded the province’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate

Provincial health body refuses to release full findings of cancer triage system audit

Information and Privacy Commissioner asked to review redactions

Southern resident killer whale died of blunt trauma, likely from ship

J34 was found more than two years ago near Sechelt, but the necropsy findings have now been released

B.C. rail crossing death highlights risks for people in wheelchairs: watchdog

Transportation Safety Board points to ‘persistent risks faced by persons using assistive devices’

B.C. teens wanted in double homicide, suspicious death spotted in Manitoba

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were thought to have been seen in the Gillam area

Most Read