Artisanal, small-scale gold miners are poisoning water and soil in the Amazon, but four new technologies in development now may clean up their operations. At an event in Lima, Peru, the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge: The Amazon announced four winning teams that will receive a share of a $300,000 prize fund to continue their work and scale their solutions.
The winners are:
DRAM Technology (SEM Energy Ltd.) of Aberdeen, Scotland, a patented natural filtration system which is designed to remove contaminants such as heavy metals, organic, inorganic and biological compounds from various types of effluent water, received $100,000.
Porous Polymer Sorbents (ChemFinity Technologies) of New York City, United States, a chemically-selective membrane material to replace mercury in the gold mining process and decontaminate ASGM tailings, received $100,000.
ASM Progress App (Alliance for Responsible Mining) of Antioquia, Colombia, a tool to automate and digitize the collection, analysis and measurement of compliance and indicators of risk management and good practices of ASM using international standards such as CRAFT and Fairmined, will receive $50,000
Copper Plates (Pure Earth) of United States, and implemented by their Colombia office, is a technique that uses silver-coated copper plates to decontaminate ASGM tailings, will receive $50,000.
Support for tech solutions
The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge: The Amazon is a global competition that fosters the development of innovation and technology that can transform artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Small-scale mining operations in the Amazon and around the world are dumping heavy metals into waterways and clear-cutting forests. Their work supplies about 20 percent of the gold found in jewelry, electronics, and other consumer products. The Challenge seeks solutions in technological innovation. The event has attracted teams from around the world developing solutions to make mining environmentally and socially sustainable.
“If we’re going to solve this problem, we have to solve it for everybody, to make this actually work.”Alex Dehgan, CEO and Co-Founder of Conservation X Labs, the organization implementing the Challenge, said in a statement.
The Challenge first selected 12 finalists in May 2022. The finalists received initial funding of $50,000 each, allowing them to develop their technologies in the Amazon. Their solutions include microorganisms that capture pollutants produced by mining operations, jewelry made from clean gold, an approach that promotes propagation of bamboo to reclaim devastated areas, solutions to prevent the use of mercury in mining and mobile applications for monitoring, others that allow knowing the origin of the gold and calculating the economic value of the impacts of mining activities.
Conservation X Labs runs the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge: The Amazon, and it is supported by the Global Partnership for Development, which includes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Microsoft , and Esri.