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2015-Sustainable Industrial Processing Summit
SIPS 2015 Volume 4: Meech Intl. Symp. / Mining Operations

Editors:Kongoli F, Veiga MM, Anderson C
Publisher:Flogen Star OUTREACH
Publication Year:2015
Pages:275 pages
ISBN:978-1-987820-27-0
ISSN:2291-1227 (Metals and Materials Processing in a Clean Environment Series)

    Mine Closure Planning and Remediation for Mercury Contaminated Artisanal Mine Sites in Ecuador

    Brandon Nichols1; Marcello Veiga2;
    1UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, Vancouver, Canada; 2UBC-MINING, Vancouver, Canada;
    Type of Paper: Regular
    Id Paper: 449
    Topic: 4

    Abstract:

    Over eighty artisanal-small gold processing plants in Portovelo, Ecuador dot the banks of the Puyango-Tumbes River watershed. Around 0.65 t of mercury and 6000 t of sodium cyanide have been dumped annually into the local river system that travels hundreds of kilometers downstream into Peru. The flow of mercury, cyanide and other heavy metals such as arsenic into Peru has created an international incident requiring an immediate solution. To stop tailings effluent from escaping into the river, the Ecuadorian Government has decided to close and relocate nearly eighty processing plants. These processing plants are a significant source of income for at least 8,000 miners and their families in the region. The Association of Processing Plant owners is supportive of this initiative because it will allow them to continue producing nine tonnes of gold annually, but it will require the closure of all artisanal mining plants along the Puyango-Tumbes River system and their relocation to a central processing facility. In the meantime, mercury contaminated waste, approximately 65,000 m3, produced by these plants annually will need to be transported and stored, along with future tailings to a central storage facility, "El Tablon", via a pipeline. The remaining artisanal processing plants, which have been in operation since the early 1990s, are highly contaminated in mercury from open-air amalgamation burnings, spills and from the release of contaminated tailings. These sites will require extensive decontamination if they are to be used again by the public, as will the concrete, steel and earth removed from these sites during their decommission. The intent of this paper is to discuss the challenges of closing these processing plants, their relocation and to outline the goals of a successful remediation plan for the 7 km of the mercury contaminated processing sites along the riverbanks of the Puyango-Tumbes River. Lastly, the paper will discuss the effect this project has on community health, the local mining industry and those downstream of Portovello.

    Keywords:

    Contamination; Environment; Health; Metals; Mining; Remediation; Social; Sustainability; Tailings; Waste;

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    Cite this article as:

    Nichols B and Veiga M. Mine Closure Planning and Remediation for Mercury Contaminated Artisanal Mine Sites in Ecuador. In: Kongoli F, Veiga MM, Anderson C, editors. Sustainable Industrial Processing Summit SIPS 2015 Volume 4: Meech Intl. Symp. / Mining Operations. Volume 4. Montreal(Canada): FLOGEN Star Outreach. 2015. p. 129-130.