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From Port to Pit

Mapping the Mercury Supply Chain for Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in East Africa

Mercury is widely used by artisanal and small-scale miners in East Africa to extract gold. Mercury is a pollutant that cannot be broken down in the environment and thus continue to accumulate in the ecosystem including the food chain, causing significant environmental and health damage, especially to communities located close to artisanal and small-scale mining (ASGM) sites.

While there have been some initiatives to reduce the use of mercury within ASGM over the years, these have had very limited success and mercury continue to be readily available and used in most ASGM sites throughout the region. There have been several elaborate studies on the ASGM sectors in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda including on miners’ livelihoods, social and environmental impacts, organizational practices, mercury usage, and the value chain of gold from ASGM. Yet, there is a clear knowledge gap pertaining to the mercury supply chain.

There is a general discrepancy between formal mercury import numbers and the estimated mercury usage in most countries with ASGM, suggesting that most mercury is smuggled into the region. But where does mercury enter the region? From where? Who are the main traders, and how does it get to the ASGM sites? These are some of the questions that are yet to be properly explored. This study addresses these gaps and contributes with new knowledge on the ASGM mercury supply chain in East Africa.

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