A Canadian company wants to help artisanal miners produce “clean gold”

Photo by SEF Canada.

Photo by SEF Canada.

Valentina Ruiz Leotaud | Aug. 8, 2017, 10:00 AM

SEF Canada, a Vancouver-based firm that specializes in corporate social responsibility, recently launched a project called “Clean Gold Community Solutions” and it is taking its first steps in Ecuador.

“This is our newest economic development strategy built around artisanal mining communities,” said Suzette McFaul, SEF’s Managing Director. “Acknowledging that artisanal miners are entrepreneurs, we have a solution to assist them to become sustainable businesses. This includes business knowledge, access to funding and technology to process gold.”

Following a series of meetings with local leaders to understand their needs and how they see the future of their community, McFaul and her team are about to sign an agreement to help them update an existing gold processing plant in northern Ecuador to make it safer and more profitable.

Currently, miners in the area mix their ore with mercury and then burn the amalgam that this process yields to recover gold. As they do this with precarious tools, they put themselves in danger and release toxic chemicals into the environment. Additionally, SEF has determined that their recovery rate is about 30 to 40 per cent and their selling price is a fraction of the spot price.

Thus, the Canadian experts are proposing a less harmful and greener method that would help them reach gold yields of 90 per cent. This new approach, which has been endorsed by leading researchers at the University of British Columbia, switches mercury for cyanide in the recovery process.

The logic behind this proposal is that the environmental impacts of cyanide are considerably less severe than those of mercury because the substance quickly breaks down into less toxic chemicals when exposed to sunlight and air.

The first challenge to implementing this project, which is breaking down people’s skepticism, has been overcome, McFaul said. However, other challenges are still in place, namely “investors believing we can do this.”

Nevertheless, McFaul told MINING.com that people in Colombia, Mali, Suriname, Guyana, Kenya, among other countries, have expressed interest in knowing more about Clean Gold Community Solutions.

Reciprocal relationship

McFaul was clear. “SEF is a for profit model. We need the community to be successful to get paid.”

Relying on her expertise in the Sirolli Enterprise Facilitation methodology, she said she and her team usually wait to be invited to communities that are looking to build an economy that is not reliant on corporate or government initiatives. “We need to hear what they need. Not what we think they need.”

In the case of mining towns specifically, McFaul said their focus is on capacity building that looks towards achieving two main goals. First, to help the community implement more environmentally friendly systems that increase small-scale miners’ earnings; second, to support the development of non-mining related businesses and local start-ups that have a better than 80 per cent chance of retention even after five years and that help guarantee that the community will continue to thrive regardless of fluctuations in commodity prices and also once the finite resource they are working with is exhausted.

“We are entrepreneurs ourselves. We know what it is like to be in the trenches (pun intended) fighting to make money and sustainable enterprises. We know fear. We are willing to get down and walk beside them,” McFaul said.


Marcello Veiga's story: A mission accompanies singing mining professor


"This is real. It's serious. And I have lived the stories I tell," says Veiga, who was given a piece of a net, removed from the waters around Minamata, Japan in 1997, in recognition of his ongoing work there. 

For more than 20 years the net held back mercury infested fish which caused horrific human suffering in the '50s and '60s.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.  Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

For more, please click here.

Clean Gold featured in AMEBC

Clean Gold Community Solutions is featured in AMEBC’s Spring addition 2017.

Photo courtesy of amebc

Photo courtesy of amebc

Canadian companies are using positive social and environment to tackle a global issue.

“A good first impression is invaluable, reduces risk for potential investors down the line, and ensures new mines can be developed in socially and environmentally responsible ways that achieve prosperity for everyone. SEF Canada launched the Clean Gold Solutions project in late 2016 to help artisanal miners and their communities become economically viable and environmentally safe in Ecuador.”

Click here to read the full article.

Clean Gold: A New Model for Gold Investments

By Peter Bell @CEO.CA

A rush of companies dedicated to ‘toll milling’ tried to bring modern gold processing equipment to small-scale miners in remote locations in 2014-2015, but they quickly found that it was difficult to convince the miners, who may not be paying taxes, to hand their ore over to strangers. It was almost as if they needed a partner with skill in the soft side of mining to manage relationships in the community. Enter: Clean Gold.

Click here to read the full article.

An Afternoon with Clean Gold

By Peter Bell @CEO.CA

I had the pleasure to spend an afternoon with Suzette McFaul talking about Clean Gold, an exciting new business that is worth learning more about. As she said, “We're not a toll miller. We're private and the artisanal miners are going to do business with us because we have the relationships we need.” Based on her experience with SEF Canada doing community enterprise development, she knows what she is talking about.

Click here to read the full article. You can find Part II here, and Part III here.