Since the 1980’th small-scale gold mining is on the increase in Suriname. Most mining occurs in the eastern part of the country. In the small-scale gold mining the gold is usually amalgamated to mercury. An estimated 1 kg of mercury enters the environment for every kg of gold extracted, which means at least 10,000 kg of mercury released annually in the atmosphere and the aquatic environment of Suriname. In the aquatic environment bacteria may transform mercury into the extremely poisonous methyl mercury, which bio-accumulates in the food chain. As a result predatory fish will usually have high levels of methyl mercury in their tissues. Mercury poisoning causes many defects in animals and neurological health problems in humans. This review gives an overview of mercury pollution results for the aquatic environment, in the atmosphere and in humans in communities in the interior. Mercury pollution is not limited to the gold mining areas, because mercury is transported by water and wind to downstream and downwind areas. As a result predatory fish in most of central and western Suriname show high mercury levels as well. A possible explanation for the mechanism of polluting of undisturbed areas is given. Many communities in the interior show increased levels of mercury. Of four villages tested along the Saramacca River, the most upstream community, also upstream of any gold mining, showed the highest mercury levels. Villages with easy access to the capital, show lower mercury pollution because people are less dependent on local fish as a protein source. Mercury pollution also occurs in Paramaribo in the vicinity of gold shops. An overview of the gaps in our knowledge of mercury pollution in Suriname is presented.
Mercury, gold mining, Suriname
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