An estimation of the artisanal small-scale production of gold in the world

The increase in gold price of over 400% between 2002 and 2012, due to a shift towards safe investments in a period of crisis in the global economy, created a rapid increase in gold production. A response to this shift in production was observed for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) units in remote locations of the world, but this phenomenon has not been quantified yet. The work presented here was done to provide a quantitative tool for estimation of the gold (Au) produced by ASM and the population of workers involved in the production process, and assessment of mercury (Hg) consumed. The following hypotheses were addressed: i) It is possible to estimate, on first approximation, the amount of Au production in the world by artisanal mining; ii) Au production by artisanal mining varies by country and continent and iii) Hg consumption due to ASM can be correlated with the methods applied in the different countries and continents for the production of Au. To do this we estimated the number of miners, calculated the change in Au price and production and then applied an adjustment factor to calculate Hg production by country and continent. The amount of Au produced depends on technology of the miners by continents (highest in South America, medium in Asia and Central America, and lowest in Africa), and the geologic setting (not investigated here). The results of the estimation show that, as of 2011, over 16 million Artisanal Miners, in the world, were involved in gold extraction (mining or treatment), producing between 380 and 450 t of gold per year, with clear global behavior between the continents in terms of recovery efficiency, confirmed by data on Hg release that is higher in countries with lower technology.

Additional Info

J. Seccatore, M. Veiga, C. Origliasso, T. Marin, G. De Tomi
Publication Date
May 2014
Associated Partners
University of British Columbia, University of Sao Paulo
Associated Webpage
Data Source Classification
Academic Study
Source Type
Primary Source
Research Methodology
Last Updated
April 9, 2019