Irina Ashman

Irina Ashman is pursuing her bachelor degree in Environmental policy and management. She is transfer student from Moscow State Social University where she got her BA in interpretation, focusing on English and French languages. The topic of her interest is Hydrology and the final research work (capstone) focuses on the impact of the urban runoff into local streams and rivers. Analysis of data on the chemical composition of storm water runoff and potential temperature increase is the main concentration of the research. Water pollution topic is also discussed in “How ‘small’ is small-scale gold mining?” where the main pollutant is organic mercury in the area of Guiana Shield river system.

How “Small” Is Small-Scale Gold Mining?


Small scale gold mining operations have proven to be extremely harmful to the environment and result in adverse pollution of the atmosphere, soil degradation, landscape damage, ground and surface water contamination, flooding, deforestation and an aggregate of health related issues. Bad mining practices are crucial to the environment, but most of the workers that are involved in the industry are of a poor social standing and lack basic knowledge about the potentially harmful outcomes. Environmental problems are overlooked by the small-scale minors and most governments where they operate mainly for a reason that the industry keeps the poor population employed and the small term economic gains prevail over long term environmental resolutions. The main issues covered in this work will be mercury pollution, specifically from the processes of mercury amalgamation with gold. Such pollution leads to diverse ecosystems destruction and poses a threat to fragile ecological communities. I will concentrate my research on the countries of South America such as French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana and Brazil. Pollution and degradation of water resources put a burden on many communities that rely primarily on various species of fish as their main food source. But the governments of these countries are unable to implement effective regulations and policies that comply with the environmental standards of the developed word and those that would eliminate present day pollution issues. Environmental management initiatives and practices that are taking place in those countries and their effectiveness will also be discussed.

Key words: Guiana Shield, small-scale gold mining, illegal mining sector, garimpeiros, mercury pollution, deforestation, turbidity, bioaccumulation, amalgamation.

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