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Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is an important direct livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar. ASGM is characterised by low levels of mechanisation and productivity, and often attracts socially and economically marginalised communities, who use gold mining as a means to escape periods of food and livelihood insecurity. Despite the significant potential of ASGM for community development, there is a range of environmental, social and health related challenges. Unsafe and excessive use of mercury, poor working conditions, a lack of access to investment opportunities and adverse environmental impacts undermine the sector’s transformative potential and present large threats to miners, surrounding communities and the environment. One of the biggest issues with ASGM is the high quantity of mercury (a powerful neurotoxin with serious health impacts) that is used in gold processing. This has caused serious long lasting damage to the environment and human health, and ASGM constitutes the single largest anthropogenic source of mercury pollution worldwide.
Turquoise Mountain, in partnership with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ‘Suu Foundation’, aims to produce Myanmar’s first responsibly sourced gold. We will work with Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) community in Thabeikkyin township, Mandalay Region. The project aims to improve mining practices in line with international standards. The main focus of operation upgrades and improvements will be mercury and cyanide use, site rehabilitation, waste management, health and safety practices, and mine governance structures. Gold that is produced by artisanal mining operations that have upgraded and improved their practices will gain access to high-end international jewellery markets, and ultimately be able to command a premium price. This can be reinvested into community projects, enabling miners to continue to improve and upgrade their mining operations. This scheme will encourage miners to work in the formal economy and to develop long-term business plans, improving livelihood security. By engaging a wide range of key players, from the Department of Mines to Civil Society Groups, we aim to develop a model for sustainable artisanal mining that can be rolled out throughout the country. Our beneficiaries include: