Rapid assessment of environmental health risks posed by mining operations in low- and middle-income countries: selected case studies


Previous studies have evaluated associated health risks and human exposure pathways at mining sites. Others have provided estimates of the scale of the issue based in part on surveys. However, a global census of mining-related hazardous waste sites has been lacking. The Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) implemented by Blacksmith Institute (New York, NY, USA) since 2009 is an ongoing effort to catalogue a wide range of chemically contaminated sites with a potential human health risk (Ericson et al., Environ Monit Assess doi:10.1007/s 10661-012-2665-2, 2012). The TSIP utilizes a rapid assessment instrument, the Initial Site Screening (ISS), to quickly and affordably identify key site criteria including human exposure pathways, estimated populations at risk, and sampling information. The resulting ISS allows for comparison between sites exhibiting different contaminants and pollution sources. This paper explores the results of a subset of ISSs completed at 131 artisanal and small-scale gold mining areas and 275 industrial mining and ore processing sites in 45 countries. The authors show that the ISS captures key data points, allowing for prioritization of sites for further investigation or remedial activity.

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The Toxic Sites Identification Program has been funded in part by the Asian Development Bank, the European Commission, Green Cross Switzerland, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the World Bank.

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Correspondence to Jack Caravanos.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Caravanos, J., Ericson, B., Ponce-Canchihuamán, J. et al. Rapid assessment of environmental health risks posed by mining operations in low- and middle-income countries: selected case studies. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 7711–7718 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-012-1424-9

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  • Mining
  • Health risks
  • Pollution
  • Waste site
  • Low- and medium-income countries
  • Developing countries
  • Rapid risk assessment