Low technology handicrafts kill

There really are things which we would very much rather do in large organised factories rather than having some William Morris Arts and Crafts movement trying to do them.

An unprecedented outbreak of lead poisoning linked to a gold rush has killed at least 200 children in northern Nigeria this year, with a further 18,000 people affected.

Announcing the figures, the UN said it had sent an emergency team to assess the full impact of the \”acute massive lead poisoning\” in Zamfara state, where seven villages have so far been confirmed as contaminated. In all cases, villagers had been grinding ore by hand to search for gold when they unwittingly freed lead particles also contained in the rock.

Processing that sort of lead heavy ore isn\’t difficult. You end up with both gold and lead to make batteries from. But it does require capital, industrial amounts of it, and a whacking great big factory.

It just isn\’t true that small is always beautiful.

2 thoughts on “Low technology handicrafts kill”

  1. To be honest I hadn’t heard of lead – gold deposits before, especially ones with the sort of lead grades necessary to induce heavy metal poisoning. Still, I wouldn’t dispute the UN and the Guardian.

    Personally I’d be a bit more worried about a couple of other things:

    Firstly artisinal miners typically use mercury to disolve gold from the ore. This they then boil off off to leave gold behind. In the Amazon that’s causing major environmental and health problems. Secondly the arts and crafts miners plough through an area like a swarm of locusts leaving devastation behind them.

    Next: Due to their low tech approach they cherry pick deposits, taking high grade spots and leaving the low grade behind. This can have the effect of making what might have been economic deposits unviable even if they do still contain a shed load of gold (and lead).

    Finally this sort of mining rarely works through official channels*. No tax is paid and the gold is frequently sold through criminal gangs, the profits being used to fund other criminal activities.

    Oh and they don’t mention how many artisinal miners die from other causes. Significantly more than in the professional mining industry I imagine.

    *Yes, I know I am not usually a fan of “officialdom” but I do think if a country’s mineral resources are being plundered the country should get something back. I also think if you are going to cause enviro-vandalism on a monumental scale you should get as much of the goodies out as possible. Mining an orebody is typically a one shot exercise – you rarely get a second chance to go back and redo everything a second time.

  2. Pingback: Technology By Day » Low technology handicrafts kill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *