Keywords: direct smelting, small-scale mining, gold mining, artisanal mining, environment, environmental pollution, human health, health risks, mercury amalgamation, Ghana
The application of direct smelting of gold concentrates as an alternative to mercury amalgamation in small-scale gold mining operations in Ghana
Mercury is used in small-scale mining to amalgamate gold particles, facilitating their separation from heavy sands. The negative environmental/health-related effects of mercury in mining communities in Ghana and other countries have generated research interest into development of safer alternatives. This study tested direct smelting as an alternative to amalgamation. In laboratory investigations, direct smelting yielded 99.8% recovery against 97% for amalgamation. A locally-fabricated furnace, sika bukyia, was used in field tests, yielding an average recovery of 98.3% compared to 88% for amalgamation. Direct smelting has the potential to replace amalgamation and retorting because it is effective, easy, quick and transparent.