Traditionally, cyanide has been used extensively in the gold mining industry to leach gold from ores. As a reactive organic compound, cyanide binds easily with metals like gold, effectively separating these metals from their ores.
But there are severe environmental and health implications of this. The use of cyanide has produced sizeable amounts of waste products in the form of tailings. Furthermore, cyanide is highly toxic and can bring about significant environmental consequences and public health risks if discharged into the environment.
Gold mining codes have been developed in attempts to tackle the risks posed by cyanide use in gold mining. But considering that cyanide is still being used, are these codes really effective?
One key code conceived to manage these adverse environmental impacts is the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC). Established in 2000 and supported by the World Gold Council, it provides principles and standards of practice for enhancing the protection of human health and reducing the potential for environmental impacts.
The ICMC aims to improve the management of cyanide used in gold and silver mining. For instance, it states that cyanide needs to be purchased from manufacturers that employ appropriate practices and procedures limiting exposure of their workforce to cyanide and preventing releases of cyanide into the environment. In companies that adopt the ICMC, mining operations that use cyanide to extract gold and/or silver must be examined by an independent third party to determine the status of Cyanide Code implementation.
In 2019, the @World Gold Council launched the Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMPs), an inaugural framework that lays out clear expectations of what constitutes responsible gold mining for consumers, investors and the downstream gold supply chain. These principles seek to address crucial environmental, social and governance issues pertinent to the gold mining sector. One such principle is to protect and promote the safety and occupational health of the gold mining workforce above all other priorities.
While these codes aimed at managing cyanide use and its environmental ramifications might sound remarkable, they do not completely eradicate the use of cyanide, the main culprit behind the aforementioned environmental issues.
Moreover, the focus of these codes is on mitigating the severity of the health risks and environmental impacts caused by cyanide in gold mining.
With this in mind, wouldn’t it be better to do away with cyanide altogether? There is a safe, non-toxic alternative that is both environmentally and financially sustainable. Clean Mining, part of the Clean Earth Technologies Group, has been working to transform gold production worldwide with a new mineral processing technology that eliminates cyanide in the gold recovery process. This solution replaces toxic cyanide with a non-toxic gold recovery agent, benefiting both human health and the health of the environment.
This revolutionary gold recovery agent offers genuinely transformational change for the industry, setting a new ‘gold standard’ for miners around the world.
With this, cyanide use in gold mining can be a thing of the past.