Earlier this year I was fortunate to participate in the inception workshop for the Integrated Sound Management of Mercury in Indonesia’s Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (GOLD-ISMIA) project. ISMIA is the Indonesia component of a global programme, funded by the GEF and partner governments, to phase out mercury use in Artisanal and Small-scale gold mining. This follows the vision of Prof. Marcello Veiga at UBC in Vancouver who describes how with appropriate support, illegal and informal ASGM can transition to ‘beautiful’ small-scale mining. The ISMIA project is being implemented by the UNDP.
Despite global commentary around the harm of mercury to the environment and human health, and the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury by nearly all countries (including Indonesia), the amount of mercury use in ASGM remains staggering. There are several reasons for this. Alternative technologies are poorly communicated and introduced; early failure is a powerful disincentive for miners to adopt non-mercury processing alternatives. Mercury is freely available in large parts of Indonesia and this again provides a disincentive to change. But there are also powerful business interests at play. The sale of mercury is a profitable enterprise; there are people who actively try to protect their business interests.
ISMIA has high aspirations. ISMIA will work at six ASGM locations across Indonesia. The Project Document describes targets of new technology, mercury capture and storage, remediation of mining waste and mercury-contaminated land, education and gender equity, and alternative livelihoods.
Croesus has been involved with ISMIA since its early inception. I am proud to see two recent graduates of mine from Massey University, Mr. Widi Brotokusumo and Mr. Hernandi Octavio, playing key roles in ISMIA management as stakeholders for the Indonesian Government.
Chris Anderson at an ASGM mine site with Mr. Hernandi Octavio (left), a mines inspector with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) and Mr. Widi Brotokusumo (center) a manager at the Agency for the Assessment and Implementation of Technology (BPPT). Both are graduates of the Massey University MEnvMgmt programme.
This month I accepted the offer of a 10-month contract position as the Chief Technical Advisor (CTA) to the GOLD-ISMIA project. This position is a fantastic opportunity for me to use my knowledge and capability in both ASGM and project leadership to advance this important new ASGM initiative. I will bring lessons learned from my ongoing agricultural development work in eastern Indonesia (www.IFSCA.nz) to support the evolution of small-scale mining in this part of the world. I look forward to working with Dr. Dewi Krisnayanti, the National Project Manager for the GOLD-ISMIA project and long-time Croesus colleague, and the project team, as they achieve the target outcomes of this exciting project.