SAFER ways for informal miners in South and South East Asia to prospect for gold are being investigated under an Australian Government grant won by The Australian National University (ANU) and Minelab. The research is led by ANU senior fellow Dr Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt with Minelab as a commercial partner, and is looking at the risks taken by Artisanal Small Scale Gold Miners (ASM).

Research is being undertaken in a bid to find safer was for artisanal miners to prospect for gold.
Research is being undertaken in a bid to find safer was for artisanal miners to prospect for gold.

“Millions of people throughout the Asia-Pacific region still dig and pan for mineral resources, producing a very large amount of minerals this way. It is risky, speculative and precarious work,” says Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt.

Traditional practices employ dangerous methods for detecting and mining alluvial gold then use toxic chemicals to refine the metal. This frequently leads to injury and death amongst ASM communities.

“Efforts undertaken so far to improve the lives of artisanal miners had focused on ‘downstream’ areas, such as the reduction in mercury use. My research will explore if the use of better technology can indeed improve the ‘chances’ of ‘gold strikes’. It will work to build better awareness about safety and care for the environment in order to improve overall livelihood outcomes.”

Through Dr Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt’s work it is hoped that safer and more effective ways for gold mining can be found, preventing unnecessary risk to personal health and preserving the environment from the consequences of using mercury as a key refiner.

The funding was granted under the Australian Research Council Linkage program, which supports collaboration between public researchers and private industry.

Minelab’s region director for Asia Pacific Gary Shmith congratulated Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt on being able to pursue such a valuable project. “Minelab is committed to improving the welfare and well-being of Artisanal Small Scale Gold Miners by providing training and technology to safely and efficiently find gold. We are also committed to supporting Dr Lahiri-Dutt with Minelab’s resources and expertise to assist her research in South and South East Asia and look forward to sharing the positive outcomes of the project.”

The project commenced last October and is expected to take two years to complete. Dr Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt is a member of the Resource, Environment and Development Group at the Crawford School of Public Policy at Australian National University.

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