Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 443–449 | Cite as

Cyanidation of Mercury-Contaminated Tailings: Potential Health Effects and Environmental Justice

  • Kevin DraceEmail author
  • Adam M. Kiefer
  • Marcello M. Veiga
Metals and Health (A Barchowsky, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Metals and Health


There is a variety of health and environmental issues associated with artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), which includes concerns regarding mercury pollution. In many countries, intervention programs and policies emphasized the importance of reducing mercury use by focusing on viable alternative methods to amalgamation that may include a transition to cyanidation. ASGM communities that now employ a combination of both methods may be increasing health and environmental risks by using mercury-contaminated tailings in the cyanidation process. This review provides a current overview of mercury and cyanide use in ASGM including the dangers of centralized processing centers that lack best practices. The combination of amalgamation and cyanidation has the potential to adversely affect many ASGM communities around the world and necessitates additional investigations to determine environmental and health impacts.


Artisanal and small-scale gold mining Mercury Amalgamation Cyanidation 



The authors acknowledge the following support: UNIDO Project No.100271. We also thank Bruce G. Marshall for helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Kevin Drace, Adam M. Kiefer, and Marcello M. Veiga declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Drace
    • 1
    Email author
  • Adam M. Kiefer
    • 2
  • Marcello M. Veiga
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBirmingham-Southern CollegeBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryMercer UniversityMaconUSA
  3. 3.Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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