Chemistry and Materials Science Seminar: Identification of Emission Point Sources and Capture of Mercury in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Communities
Chemistry and Materials Science Seminar
Quicksilver: Identification of Emission Point Sources and Capture of Mercury in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Communities
Dr. Adam M. Keifer
Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry
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This seminar may be attended in person in 2305 Gosnell Hall or online via Zoom.
Dr. Keifer will present on his research related to mercury vapor that is released in small-scale gold mining operations, the global impact on Hg emissions, and efforts to detect and mitigate emissions via technology and public policy initiatives in places including Peru, Guyana, and Mexico.
An estimated 16 million people work in the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector, producing ~20% of global output of gold each year. ASGM occurs almost exclusively in lower- and middle-income countries, and is a major source of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. In a hard rock mining setting, miners extract ore, grind it to a find powder, and apply elemental mercury (Hg0) to concentrate the gold in an amalgam, or alloy of gold and mercury. The amalgam can then be heated, evaporating the mercury and revealing the impure sponge gold. This “burning” process often occurs in residential and urban areas, and results in dangerous concentrations of Hg0 being emitted into the local environment. The mercury vapor released is ultimately incorporated into the global mercury cycle and transported around the globe. As a result, ASGM is now recognized as the largest anthropogenic source of mercury emissions on the planet. Research in the Kiefer laboratory is dedicated to 1) identifying point sources of mercury in ASGM communities; 2) working with governments to develop alternatives to mercury use in the ASGM sector and propose fair and meaningful legislation related to mercury emissions associated with ASGM activities; and 3) developing new technologies to capture Hg0 emitted during the burning process. To highlight this work, the mapping of Hg0 emissions in Peru and Guyana, efforts to provide guidance for governments in setting air quality standards and technical norms for monitoring mercury pollution, and the design and testing of a prototype Mercury Capture System (MCS), which won the Gold award at the 2020 ConservationX ASM Grand Challenge, will be summarized.
Adam Kiefer is the Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at Mercer University, a Primarily Undergraduate Institution, where he teaches in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He and his team of undergraduate researchers have worked in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold mining communities in Mozambique, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, and Peru. They have developed mapping techniques to rapidly identify point sources of Hg0 pollution in these communities, and are currently developing technologies to capture Hg0 evolved during the mining process. In the last nine years, this work has resulted in one patent and twenty peer-reviewed publications, the majority with undergraduate coauthors.
Undergraduates, graduates, experts. Those with interest in the topic.
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When and Where
Open to the Public