WWF to train gold miners in Suriname in sustainable production

Posted on 17 January 2006
Solitary Gold-miners, 'garimpieros solteros' panning for gold in tropical rainforest in the Amazon.
Paramaribo, Suriname – WWF has been awarded a grant by the Inter-American Development Bank to set up a national gold mining association in Suriname and to train thousands of gold miners in new and environment-friendly mining techniques.

The US$100,000 award, together with US$50,000 from WWF, will help organize the country’s small-scale gold mining sector through the establishment of the Suriname Gold Miners Association (SGMA), and to regulate production practices of about 12,000 miners, including the implementation of a code of mining conduct.

Most small-scale miners in the South American nation of Suriname use mercury to separate gold from other minerals in the excavation process. Dumped into rivers and streams, mercury can cause irreparable ecological and health damages.

“We want to make these miners aware that there are methods of mining which will benefit them and the environment,” said Jerrel Pinas with the WWF Guianas regional programme office based in Suriname.

“Hopefully, the miners will be persuaded to switch to more environment-friendly methods such as using mechanical means to extract the gold or replacing mercury with less harmful chemicals.”

The small-scale gold mining sector in Suriname contributes about 13 per cent, or US$168.1 million, of GDP and employs about 12,000. It is also the major source of employment and income for large numbers of indigenous communities, such as Maroons and Amerindians.

The main objective of the WWF project is to promote the overall competitiveness of Suriname's mining sector and its financial sustainability. The 18-month WWF training project, which is due to begin in March 2006, will not only focus on organizing the small-scale gold mining sector, but will include participation from the country’s 240 holders of large gold mining concessions.

For further information:
Jerrel Pinas, Communications Officer
WWF Guianas Regional Program Office
E-mail: jdpinas@wwf.sr
Solitary Gold-miners, 'garimpieros solteros' panning for gold in tropical rainforest in the Amazon.
© WWF / Nigel DICKINSON Enlarge
Small-scale gold mining operations in the forests of Suriname.
© Jerrel Pinas / WWF Guianas Enlarge
Small-scale gold mining camp in Suriname.
© Jerrel Pinas / WWF Guianas Enlarge