July 19, 2009

Gold Rush and Mercury Attack in Gunung Ujeun Aceh Jaya

Kureng Sabee, of Aceh Jaya district, is recently more attractive for prespector since the issue of gold deposits around the Gunung Ujeun forest land. Villagers have mined gold by hand in the mountainous site. This area is predicted containing abundant and easily mined deposits of nickel, gold, iron ore and potassium.

Husaini Syama’un, the head of Aceh Environmental Protection Agency, stated that the gold-mining activities in this area is alarming due to the massive and uncontrolled use of mercury. Around 14 400 liters of mercury waste water run without a proper management into the Krueng Sabee river every. Around 600 kg of mercury/day.

What the impact in the future? Check the image of fish-mercury food chain provided by a Canadian web site. In general, mercury is harmful for human health and environment. The impact of the mercury waste is not just spread out through water animal. This pollutant could jump up to the tree and other terrestrial animal, and finally harm people as concluded by a recent research.

Despite the hazardous mercury issue, hopefully the Aceh government will not ban those traditional mining. Local people or villagers need to improve their living standard.

The challenges are:
  1. How the government regulate the mining activities which could empower local people?
  2. How to minimize the ecosystem impact for short and long term?

"Almost all mercury compounds are toxic and can be dangerous at very low levels in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Because mercury is a persistent substance, it can build up, or bioaccumulate, in living organisms, inflicting increasing levels of harm on higher order species such as predatory fish and fish eating birds and mammals through a process know as "biomagnification". Although the long-term effects of mercury on whole ecosystems are unclear, the survival of some affected populations and overall biodiversity are at risk". (http://www.ec.gc.ca)
"The average blood organic mercury level among study participants is 15.6 +/- 8.8 micrograms/l (n = 44), which is higher than levels reported by others among those who do not consume fish (2 micrograms/l.) (Source; Pubmedcentral.nih.go)
"Mercury can harm the developing fetus as well as young children whose neurological systems are still developing. Fish consumption by pregnant women or direct consumption of fish by young children is the primary pathway of exposure".(Source;the Ohio Department of Health)
"Scientists tested mercury in 13 insect-eating bird species and found that twelve had dangerously high levels. They then examined the birds' food supply, literally snatching spiders, moths and grasshoppers out of the mouths of babies in their nests. These tasty morsels all contained mercury. And spiders, which sit higher up the food chain, had even more mercury than fish collected from the river". (Source; Sciencedaily)


Yeah Mercury is hazardous substance often contaminating water resources of around gold mining.

Many cases have shown the impacts of such pollutant, like minamata, newmount bay, etc.

Hope the miners will increasingly understand, realize, and care about the threat.

The authorities have to take firm measures to those breaking the regulations.

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