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This process can be very dangerous and lead to significant mercury exposure and health risks. In some jurisdictions, mercury use may be illegal or restricted in certain ways. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global agreement for reducing mercury pollution, recognizes the risks of using mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and calls upon nations to reduce, and where feasible eliminate mercury use in this sector
Although many miners use mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, it is possible to safely and economically recover gold without it. Mercury-free techniques are safer for miners, their families and local communities. They may also help miners market their gold at higher prices.
Concentration means increasing the amount of gold in ore or sediment, by selectively removing lighter particles. If employed effectively, concentration methods can eliminate or greatly reduce the need for mercury.
Before concentration can begin, ore must be crushed or milled to liberate gold particles from rock and to decrease grain size. Concentration works best when grain size of the milled material or sediment is relatively consistent, so that most particles are of similar size. An appropriate grain size can be achieved using screens or sieves. Once the gold-containing material has the appropriate grain size, one (or several) of the methods described below can be employed to concentrate gold bearing material.
Most concentration methods rely on the high density of gold relative to other minerals in ore or alluvium mixture. These are referred to as gravity methods. Magnetic or chemical properties can also be exploited to enhance concentration.
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