© Robert Hofstede


Freshwater & Mining

Gold mining activities are currently the most significant driver of ecosystem degradation in the Guianas, and this threat has been increasing over the past years. While WWF Guianas will continue to build awareness of the dangers of mercury and generate support for phasing out mercury imports, we must also invest in solutions recognizing that the lucrative goldmining trade is not going away and that thousands of people make their living from small-scale extraction. In response, WWF Guianas will launch pilot projects using more productive mercury-free practices with groups of small-scale miners.
Efforts, such as creating awareness among policy makers, are made to support the ratification of the Minamata Convention in Suriname.

Protecting Guianas freshwater from known pollutants such as mercury is protecting our regional identity and heritage. The term “Guianas” is an Amerindian expression: “land of many waters.” Guyana and Suriname are respectively 2nd and 3rd in the world country rankings of freshwater availability per capita. Our region contains 10-15% of the world’s freshwater volume – a global asset in a world where water shortages are growing and will accelerate.

Artisanal and small-scale goldmining is a regional and global problem as the mercury used by miners destroys habitat, freshwater, and the health of exposed people and wildlife. An estimated 40,000 artisanal miners in the Guianas add mercury as an amalgam to silt or ore dust to attract and hold tiny pieces of gold, a technology that dates back over 150 years.

The approach of the freshwater strategy is particularly to address the uncontrolled use and release of mercury by supporting the development of a mercury-free mining model that is technically adaptable, economically viable and socially realistic.

WWF Guianas is committed to reducing the impacts of artisanal and small-scale mining through:
  • Supporting the ratification of the Minamata Convention in Suriname and Guyana;
  • Integration of better practices for streambed management and limit deforestation to ensure freshwater ecosystems and flow regimes provide water for people and nature;
  • Building demand for “responsible” gold with our WWF partners in industrial nations now that the technology is available to identify “mercury-free” gold
© Roger Leguen / WWF
Roger Leguen / WWF
© Roger Leguen / WWF