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STrategic Abatement of Mercury and Poverty (STAMP)

The Mercury Problem

One of the simplest and most widely utilized methods for obtaining gold from ore relies on mercury as the extracting medium. When liquid mercury is poured over gold concentrate containing free gold, the gold and other contaminating metals are absorbed and an amalgam is formed. The amalgam is then heated in order to remove the mercury, leaving a residue of gold and perhaps other metals. Finally, the residue -- with its impurities -- is weighed by gold dealers who in turn estimate its value and purchase at a discount.

Unfortunately, mercury is a highly toxic substance. Because the indigent in third world countries have few choices when confronted with the constant struggle to eke out a meager subsistence however, when there is an opportunity to mine gold, they are typically left with no options but to disregard associated dangers. Escaping mercury vapors, as well as mercury residues in tailings, routinely destroy the health of these miners and their families. Furthermore, mercury contamination delivers serious negative effects upon regional wildlife and the food chain.

Currently, small scale miners around the world (some 20-40 million), continue to rely on mercury in order to extract and recover gold.

Haber's Alternative to Mercury

In response to the myriad health and environmental problems that result from the use of mercury in gold mining, Haber Inc. has developed the Haber Gold Process (HGP) - an environmentally friendly and highly efficient alternative method for gold extraction and recovery.

In February of 2005, at the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Haber ran extraction and recovery tests in Kumasi Ghana. The test ore was an alluvial gold concentrate obtained from small-scale gold miners in the Wassa Akropong region of Ghana. (See Appendix A) The final report, prepared under the direction of Professor F.W.Y Momade of the Materials Engineering Department of KNUST's College of Engineering, concluded the following:

Ultimately, the Ghanaian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research reported its strong support for the program and its introduction in Ghana.

Two specific developments were put in place to deal with artisanal miners:

STAMP Program Objectives

In order to address the global mercury problem, Haber Inc. has developed the Strategic Abatement of Mercury and Poverty (STAMP) program. This program is designed to induce artisanal and all mercury mining users to adopt Haber's highly efficient mining technologies. The fundamental strategy looks to illustrate the economic advantages of HGP to the miners. Although being able to provide a safe work environment , safety benefits alone are not sufficient to convince indigent miners to abandon mercury processing. Ultimately, the success of the program must rely on its ability to provide the miners with a greater level of income than what they are able to derive when using mercury. The broad objectives of the STAMP Program are as follows:

  1. Employ as many artisanal miners as is possible while maintaining the economical integrity of the program.
  2. Work to eliminate the use of mercury when extracting gold in the customary artisanal alluvial concentrates and hard rock deposit areas.
  3. Increase artisanal miner wages above the national average and provide bonuses based on gold revenues.
  4. Create new employment opportunities and provide training for higher paid jobs in the trades, management, administration, accounting, mining, geology, process engineering, and attendant disciplines.
  5. Provide a humanitarian fund to benefit the miners and their families.
  6. Convert sites to farming land or forestry after gold is depleted from the properties.
  7. Attract artisanal miners to proven gold reserves set aside by large scale mining companies and / or the government.
  8. Make a profit for all stakeholders.

Demonstration Program

Haber has a high level of confidence in the technical success of the STAMP program. However, it is clearly understood that the effects of social, traditional, and government interactions, as well as native people's perceptions of STAMP are difficult to predict until actual operations are in place.

The best way to address these types of questions and speculations is to call upon a Demonstration program. A program of this sort would contain a Regional Processing Center (RPC) and all other elements required for a country-wide STAMP project, it is just that all components would be implemented on a greatly reduced scale. At the same time, the program would enlist maximum input from all affected levels of stakeholders and individuals in the country.

With a demonstration program, STAMP assumptions could -- as necessary -- be debugged, substantiated, and appropriately qualified in accordance with actual country conditions. A demonstration program would also contain significant social interaction, education and publicity components in order to educate miners about the advantages of STAMP participation and keep them current on other relevant information.

Upon successful completion of a demonstration program, to the satisfaction of all stakeholders, financial support will be solicited to implement a full scale STAMP program.

Full Scale Program Methodology and Components

A typical full scale STAMP program is projected to operate up to 100 mine sites with as many as 15 thousand employees over a period of 60 months. A full scale program will require a ramping up of the Regional Processing Center (RPC) initially put in place for the Demonstration program. The RPC will handle both gold extraction and gold recovery operations, and will be situated within a 30 kilometer range of all assigned working mine sites.

STAMP Graph

STAMP Graph

Although HGP's effluent is environmentally friendly and can be discharged directly into the ground, STAMP will nevertheless require that the RPC use a lined effluent pond built in conformity with American standards. Utilization of this pond will ensure that any possible concerns about contamination are allayed.

Processing center equipment will also include Haber's Mobile Articulating Extractor (shown below), fixed vat leach gold extractors and high-speed recovery systems, pumps, a forklift truck, front-end loader, electrical generators, dump truck and ancillary equipment. Each ton of concentrate produced at a small scale site will be picked up and transported to the Center.

Every RPC will require engineers, laborers, technicians and other support personnel. The RPC will process all concentrate produced by the mechanized mine sites, galumseys who are converted to legal mining on government allocated land, and small scale miners. Some RPC capacity will also be allocated for processing low volume, low grade concentrates produced by unmechanized miners.

HGP Mobile Articulating Exctractor

HGP4 Recovery Unit used in conjunction with the Aladdin extraction machine

  

The Humanitarian Trust

A percentage of gold revenues generated by the mining operation will be set aside to establish and fund a humanitarian trust. Trust monies will be used for the benefit of the mining region and its people -- funding projects involving basic necessities, infrastructure, education and medical services. The Trust will be operated and funded by Haber, but guided by Ghanaian Trustees who will establish the goals and projects to be funded.

Producing Gold Concentrate for Processing

In order for the STAMP program to be maximally beneficial for Ghanaian small-scale miners, it must be flexible enough so that they are enticed to utilize the Regional Processing Center (RPC) instead of their particular mercury-based mining operation.

(a) Service Agreements with Small Scale Mine Concessionaires

Service agreements of this type provide the greatest potential economic benefit to small scale concessionaires and workers. This option allows Haber to enter into service agreements with small-scale Ghanaian concession holders licensed to mine one or more 25-acre sites.

Mechanization will be provided in order to produce at least one ton per day of high-grade concentrate containing approximately 10-20 ounces of gold. Ultimately, when all gold has been exhausted from the mining area, on site equipment will then be used to convert the property to farming land which in turn can be reallocated to villages as a viable crop and revenue producer. This transformation will allow sustainable income to be generated after mining operations cease. The service agreement model calls for more than 100 workers over two shifts.

(b) HGP Fee Based Program

The second program structure is designed for concession holders who want to continue mining for themselves, but do so via the HGP Regional Processing Center (RPC) in order to avoid the use of mercury.

The HGP Fee Based Program offers small-scale miners the services of the RPC, which can be used to process ore on a fee-for-services basis. Miners are to be paid for their gold in cash after it has been recovered or accurately assayed at the Center. A fee is to be paid for the processing service. Fee structures are to be developed based on specific operational variables derived during the Demonstration phase. Additionally, because it is currently impossible to estimate the number of miners who will opt for this alternative, capacity allocations will have to be determined after the program is underway.

Galumsey Mining

The STAMP program will not process any ore that has been illegally obtained by galumseys poaching on private property. Nevertheless, one of the program objectives will be to show galumseys how they can actually make more money when dealing with the Regional Processing Center (RPC). To this end, the STAMP program will look to have the government and/or large scale mining operations donate gold bearing land that is rich enough in reserves so that galumseys and others are enticed to mine there. The basic strategy here is to induce galamseys to become legal miners by illustrating how it is more lucrative to deal with the RPC rather than continue with unsafe and illegal practices.

Regional Center collection of concentrates (small lots and tonnage)

One of the most important STAMP elements rests in the ability to provide quick (1 hour or less) recovery information about concentrates arriving at the Regional Processing Center (RPC). Offering quick recovery information is necessary because individuals sending their concentrate to the RPC will not want the material -- which may be as little as 100 lbs -- to commingle with other miners' concentrate that may have a lesser value.

Because it is more cost effective for the RPC to deal in ton lots, it will perform a sample gold recovery test, within one hour, and then pay the miner in cash for the ore. As needed, the RPC can then build up one ton batch loads for processing. Miners dissatisfied with the price being offered for their concentrate will be invited to take the ore back with them and compare what they were offered by the RPS vs what they recovered using mercury. Over time, it is believed that skeptical miners will begin to trust the test recovery method employed by the RPC.

Equipment and Training at Mine Sites

Haber will manage, operate, set employment safety criteria, and equip each service agreement mine site. While Haber will act as a general contractor, Ghanaian companies will be enlisted to provide necessary support under Haber's general oversight.

Every laborer will receive a per diem rate significantly above the $1 USD/day national average, plus food and a weekly bonus reflecting ongoing Regional Processing Center gold revenues. The worksites will contain the equipment and trained operators required to produce one ton of concentrate (containing approximately 10-20 ounces of gold) a day.