RAMR2D network scholarship holders
Affiliated CEAs :
- Institut Supérieur des Mines et Géologie de Boké (CEA - Mines and Societies)
- Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët Boigny d'Abidjan (CEA - Mines and Environment)
Assessment of the environmental and social impact of artisanal gold mining activities in the Siguiri prefecture, Republic of Guinea: multidisciplinary analysis using Remote Sensing, Geographic Information System (GIS) and community-based approach.
Summary of the scientific project
The main aim of this project is to enable local stakeholders to develop a shared strategy for the rational development of EMAPEs (small-scale artisanal mining), by helping gold miners to better understand the environmental and health consequences of their technological choices on the local environment.
The chosen demonstration area is the Siguiri region, which concentrates most of Guinea's gold potential. This region lies in the extension of the world-class Malian and Burkina Faso gold belts (Birimian metallogeny). In addition to two industrial operations, SAG (AngloGold) and SMD (NordGold), one under development, SMM (Managem), and a number of more or less active exploration licenses, the region is home to a multitude of small-scale artisanal gold mining operations that have been going on for centuries. Artisanal gold mining has significant environmental and social impacts: massive destruction of arable land; destruction of plant cover, leading to increasing exposure of soils to erosion and drought; increasing turbidity of surface waters, making it difficult for other uses to even exist; and pollution of surface and groundwater with arsenic, mercury and cyanide, with health impacts on local populations.
Remote sensing has been used for several decades to monitor environmental impacts on soil and water (acid mine drainage) from space. Recent work has shown the value of public space satellite data for monitoring the environmental impacts of gold panning in West Africa, where land use is rapidly evolving (as new sites are discovered). The spatial dispersion of mine tailings and artisanal mining operations can be monitored using remote sensing coupled with field measurements, for calibration purposes. The presence of metals in mine tailings is a potential source of soil and water contamination, with documented health impacts. In these polluted environments, microorganisms play an essential role, as they are involved in the biogeochemical mechanisms controlling the behavior of numerous toxic elements, some of which are used or released during gold extraction. In fact, microbial communities can precipitate toxic elements in solution, thus depolluting mine drainage water. In this way, they can provide remediation solutions for soil and water.
While many scientific studies focus on the geological, social, economic, environmental and historical issues surrounding gold panning in West Africa, few propose practical solutions to enable the populations affected to remedy the problems that the development of this activity generates for the territories concerned.
The issue of knowledge transfer between science and society is thus a key factor in helping local stakeholders to address the local problems caused by the development of gold panning, by highlighting the mechanisms by which the main metal pollutants are released into the environment, and by co-constructing the first means of action, in a sequential logic of avoidance, reduction and compensation for the environmental impacts of gold panning.
Integration of the thesis project into the local, regional and international scientific community:
This thesis project is part of an environmental and social study of a mining area characterized by both artisanal and industrial gold mining in northeastern Guinea.
Geologically, this is a Birimian gold-bearing zone whose branch extends as far as Ghana, passing through Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire. This geological complex is characterized by gold panning, one of the oldest activities in the sub-region.
The multi-disciplinary approach mobilized through remote sensing and the human and social sciences to address the problem has already been applied in other countries in the sub-region (Niger, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire). The results of this work will be incorporated into the local scientific community, with repercussions on the international scientific world thanks to the involvement of several players (public, communities, mining companies, etc.).