Mercury is used to extract gold from ore panned and mined by hand by artisanal miners plying their trade in the Amazon. How bad is the problem? According to Dr. Kristin Sippl, “Around 20% of the gold in a jewelry comes from artisanal and small-scale gold mining. And this sector is now the leading source of man-made mercury pollution in the world, emitting 727 metric tons of mercury into the environment in 2013, more than twice the amount in 2005.” In Conservation X Labs and a global coalition of organizations promoting research and development of technologies that can end the pollution of the world’s rainforests with mercury.
In 2021, Conservation X Labs (CXL), in partnership with USAID, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Microsoft and ESRI, launched the ‘Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge: The Amazon’ . The Grand Challenge sought solutions for the following categories: (1) Safeguard ecosystems and human health from potential harmful effects; (2) Optimize responsible supply chains to increase transparency and accountability; (3) Promote and sustain formalization and good governance of the gold mining sector.
Finalists of the the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge proceeded to a six-month acceleration program – the Amazon CoLab. E4C supported CXL with implementation of the Amazon CoLab Program to accelerate 18 technology-based ventures ensuring a sustainable Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining market. Spanning two years, E4C’s support including benchmarking of the ventures to identify key skills and knowledge gaps within their organizations and business model to curate relevant expertise and mentorship. The collected insights positioned us to deliver targeted training in business, pitch creation, and technology development supplemented by mentorship with relevant industry experts to advance each innovation’s application, commercial, and funding readiness levels. Impact assessments were conducted regularly to ensure that the program was advancing the skills, business model, implementation strategy, and networks of the participating ventures.