Golden opportunity

UVic professor shares techniques that could save gold miners’ lives in Third World

Kevin Telmer of the Artisanal Gold Council with a machine that will separate gold from other minerals. The council hopes to aid small scale miners around the world.

Kevin Telmer of the Artisanal Gold Council with a machine that will separate gold from other minerals. The council hopes to aid small scale miners around the world.

You might be Kevin Telmer’s neighbour if you happen to peek over the fence and spot him panning for gold in his backyard.

The Cadboro Bay resident and University of Victoria geochemistry associate professor is honing the techniques he teaches and shares with small-scale and artisanal gold miners in some of the world’s poorest nations, such as Ghana and Tanzania.

For the past 15 years he has shared safer and more efficient mining technologies and practices that improve the health and livelihoods of gold miners, who rely on mercury to extract their gold.

“The mercury they’re using, they’re not aware of the poisonous use of it,” said Telmer, who is on leave from teaching to focus on his Saanich-based non-profit Artisanal Gold Council. He is also a technical advisor to the United Nations, which is negotiating a treaty on mercury use.

“Mercury is a global pollutant,” he said, adding that gold mining and coal burning are the biggest culprits.

Changing the way miners do business is a daunting task, since gold mining supports the livelihoods of more than 50 million people in 70 countries.

“It’s not a mission impossible. There are solutions,” Telmer said.

The miners pour inexpensive liquid mercury into their buckets of heavy minerals and concentrates, which attaches to gold. The labourers use their shirts to squeeze out the excess liquid, forming a small ball that is part mercury, part gold. The ball is heated to remove the mercury, and the miners breathe in the poisonous vapour.

But there are tools they can use to avoid mercury exposure, which can eventually lead to nervous system disorders such as tremors, shaking, loss of coordination, chronic headaches and organ malfunction.

The miners are embracing the use of safer machines that allow them to extract gold at a faster pace, increasing their pay from $2 or $3 to $10 a day in some cases.

“On that basis, the information spreads,” said Telmer.

“We help a community at a time. It’s a lot of work but it feels good.”

To learn more about the council’s advocacy work, field programs and fundraising efforts, please visit www.artisanalgold.org.

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

BC Housing has brought in sanitation trailers to the former Mount Tolmie Hospital site so its current residents can access clean water, showers, sinks and toilets after a collapsed sewer pipe impacted water service to the building. (Google Streetview)
Mount Tolmie Hospital homelessness shelter using sanitation trailers after pipe collapse

Travelodge shelter residents faced intermittent hot water supply in late May, early June

COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School, both on June 14. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Two Saanich schools report COVID-19 exposures

Exposures reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School

Staff will be reviewing public feedback from second-stage designs for cycling infrastructure in James Bay, part of the City of Victoria’s 32-kilometre network. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria sends James Bay bike lanes choice to next phase

Design modifications based on community input to be delivered to council this summer

Sooke RCMP seized cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, prescription pills, $6,000 cash, a machete and pepper spray during a bust June 15. (Courtesy of Sooke RCMP)
Sooke RCMP seize drugs, machete, pepper spray

Man arrested near Evergreen Centre following drug deal

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Syringes prepared with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination site in Long Beach, Calif., Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Vaccine first doses now available for walk-ins on Vancouver Island

People aged 18+ can walk in for their first COVID-19 vaccine

Photos displayed at a vigil for former Nanaimo outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found June 3 and whose death RCMP are investigating as a homicide. (News Bulletin photo)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

Most Read