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Quantifying adoption barriers in mercury-free equipment among artisanal and small scale gold miners in Ghana

Energy & Environment Ghana

Photo Credit: Chiman Cheung

Policy Context

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is the largest global source of mercury pollution, releasing over 2,000 tonnes annually, as reported in the UNEP Global Mercury Assessment 2018. The process of extracting gold particles from other substances in the ore often involves directly handling mercury with bare hands and burning the amalgam. This practice directly affects miners, many of whom inhale mercury vapor or absorb the substance into the body through contact. The dangers of mercury are not limited to miners. Neighboring communities are exposed through the careless disposal of mercury into bodies of water. Symptoms of mercury exposure in humans can include essential tremors, liver and kidney damage, impaired hearing, blindness, skin cancer, respiratory infections. It can also damage reproductive health and cause cerebral palsy in fetuses.

Solidaridad, an NGO in Ghana, has made some progress by distributing six advanced mercury-free processing units to mining regions. However, the high cost of these units, ranging from $100,000-120,000, makes them unaffordable for most small-scale miners. To address this, Solidaridad is collaborating with a local manufacturer to develop a cheaper alternative priced at approximately USD 500. At the beginning of May, they will pilot these new devices on site with miners.

Study Design

Chiman is working to design an RCT that implements a Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) mechanism, as outlined in Berry, Fischer, and Guiteras (2020), to estimate the demand curve for new clean mining equipment. The BDM price draws will create a treatment and a control group conditional on reported willingness to pay (WTP). Additionally, Chiman will provide ground-truthing for the technology by sampling water downstream of the mining sites, allowing the team and NGO to trace the key welfare outcome of interest: mercury concentration in river bodies.


Results and Policy Lessons


  • Chiman Cheung

2024 — 2025

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