As a result of the price of gold increasing in recent times, large numbers of people and companies in Third World nations such as Indonesia have set up impromptu mining facilities where miners throw caution to the wind and willfully use highly toxic mercury to extract raw gold from mined soil.
KERENGPANGI, INDONESIA — A gold miner stands waist-deep in a polluted pond, dumps a capful of mercury into a bucket of ore and mixes it in with his bare hands.
The darting liquid metal wraps itself around the gold to form a silver pellet the size of a marble.
The use of mercury in gold mining is illegal in Indonesia because the metal is toxic to humans and the environment. But the price of gold has tripled since 2001, and mercury is the easiest way to extract it.
“Of course I’m worried,” said miner Handoko, 23, a grim man in a baseball hat who goes by one name. “But this is the job.”
Tens of thousands of remote mining sites have sprung up mostly in Asia, Latin America and Africa, using as much as 1,000 tons of mercury each year. The mercury ravages the nervous system of miners and their families. It also travels thousands of miles in the atmosphere, settling in oceans and riverbeds in Europe and North America and contaminating fish.
Small-scale gold mining is the second-worst source of mercury pollution in the world, after the burning of fossil fuels. And Indonesia ranks behind only China in the use of mercury in gold mining. (source)
Why should the rest of the world care about the use of mercury in gold mining operations on the other side of the planet? Simply put, anything placed (or carelessly dumped) in the environment can and WILL eventually wind up distributing itself all over the planet… and in this case that means the mercury from Indonesia will wind up in the air and drinking water all over the world eventually.
While all United States municipalities must carefully monitor the amount of mercury in the water they distribute, no one monitors the mercury content of the water pulled by private well owners — and that means no one really knows if the water contains mercury or not unless the private well owners test for mercury themselves.
Do simple test methods exist for testing mercury in water? Yes. Boris’ Mercury Test Kit tests down to the EPA limit of 0.002 ppm (or 2 parts per billion) and yields its results quickly.
For cases where people fear that larger scale mercury contamination may have taken place, a product named Mercury Check with a detection range of 50ppm to 1,000ppm may come in handy.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MERCURY FREE PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPS DRAFT OF GROUNDBREAKING LEGISLATION TO KEEP AIR AND WATER CLEAN
Communities and Individuals Form Coalition Focused on Mercury Reduction within
Broad Environmental Policy
September 9, 2009—The Mercury Free Partnership has developed a draft of legislation which would reduce 90% of harmful mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, the largest emitter of mercury in the United States. This draft, called the Mercury Reduction Act of 2009, would target coal-fired plants which emit more than 100,000 pounds of mercury into the air each year. In fact, the EPA estimates that about 250 pounds of mercury are currently pumped out of U.S. coal-fired plants into the atmosphere every single day, contaminating our nation’s air and water supplies. Contamination not only poses a multitude of health risks to extremely vulnerable citizens, but it also significantly affects the economic interests of related industries. This is an important initiative because so much attention has been focused on global climate change; what has to be realized is that immediate mercury reduction alone would significantly enhance environmental and health benefits in our world. The purpose of this draft is to initiate dialogue with all concerned stakeholders in order to develop a finalized piece of legislation.
The Mercury Free Partnership believes that the new administration will be taking the necessary steps to curb various industrial emissions and ensure that citizens are protected from many harmful chemicals produced by the market. To make certain that mercury emissions are not swept under the rug in this crucial time period, the Mercury Free Partnership will focus on engaging Congress to work on delivering sensible mercury reduction legislation in the coming session. This can be done with new green technologies that will save lives, create jobs and build momentum for comprehensive environmental change.
The Proposed Legislative Principles of the Mercury Reduction Act of 2009
The key elements of the proposal are as follows:
• Phased reductions that are achievable by utilities versus one hard standard.
• 80% of capture inlet mercury by 2012 (a level that can be met with current technology).
• 90% of capture inlet mercury by 2015.
• Flexible monitoring systems.
• Excess emissions penalties of $50,000 for each pound of mercury emitted over the limit.
These points show how the Mercury Reduction Act will deal directly with the problem of mercury, and will do so in an immediate manner. According to Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, more focus is needed on particular legislation: “While we recognize the desire to also tackle the broader air issues, we fear that those issues will get bogged down in partisan wrangling, or most likely litigation, and we will end up with years more of pollution impacting our community.” The Mercury Reduction Act will serve as interim bridge to current legislation, providing one national standard for mercury reduction, while providing measureable, achievable reductions of mercury from coal-fired plants. Most importantly, the MRA provides a significant environmental benefit in an area not addressed by larger climate change legislation moving through Congress: mercury reduction.
Mercury emissions are a major health issue with serious financial impact, but technology exists today that can clean up to 90% of airborne mercury emissions from coal-fired plants.
There are many effective technologies to reduce mercury. One such technology is called Activated Carbon Injection (ACI). It has been found to reduce 90% of the mercury emissions from waste incinerators. A small amount of activated carbon is injected into the plant ductwork where it captures the gaseous mercury and then is removed along with the plant’s fly ash in particulate collectors. This highly effective environmental solution is very cost-effective, costing only about $1 per month per residential customer for 90% reductions according to a detailed 2004 study by the National Wildlife Federation, and significant cost reductions have been made since then.
Recent evaluations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have confirmed that the technology to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by up to 90% percent exists. In testimony submitted to the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, John B. Stephenson, Director of Natural Resources & Environment at the GAO, explains how sorbent injection systems have demonstrated the ability to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants anywhere from 80 to 90%.
How to Support the Mercury Free Partnership and the Mercury Reduction Act of 2009
The Mercury Free Partnership is looking to partner with a broad base of individuals and organizations, as no one organization or individual can tackle the daunting task of environmental/health protection alone. It has already received the support of a broad cross-section of environmental, community and science-based groups, including a majority of utilities in key coal-fired utility states. Indications of support have been shown from the EPA, the Obama administration, as well as a large number of congressional members from key regions of the U.S. The Mercury Free Partnership has the specialized and localized knowledge needed to fully inform state and national policymakers as they consider impending legislation.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and more specifically the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, oversees such legislation. In addition to contacting the Mercury Free Partnership, you can contact the office of Rick Boucher (VA-9) directly at:
Congressman Rick Boucher
2187 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
For more information on this issue, please visit http://www.mercuryfreepartnership.org.
The Mercury Free Partnership is a group of organizations, non-profits, and green businesses that are dedicated to enacting sensible and comprehensive Mercury reduction legislation in the 2009 U.S. Congressional session. Working collectively with all stakeholders, the utility industry, medical and advocacy groups and clean coal industries we believe we can achieve our goal of removing significant amounts of Mercury from the environment while maintaining essential energy and financial areas of our economy.
Contact: Jason Sabo, Mercury Free Partnership, 877-603-2337 or email@example.com