Mercury Free Partnership
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Mercury Free Partnership

Suriname is situated on the northeast coast of South America and is part the largest remaining block of primary tropical forest on Earth and has the potential to play a critical role in mitigating climate change. Suriname is also one of the top 3 countries with the most renewable freshwater resources and is covered for 94 percent by rainforest (about 15 million hectares), rating it the greenest country on earth.

However, there are rising threaths which bash against Suriname’s image as the greenest country. These include an identified growth of 83% in the timber sector and the interstate road projections for regional integration. Perhaps the most noticeable threat concerns the mining industry.

Currently, Suriname’s economy is dominated by the mining industry, accounting for a total of 23% of total government income, whereof 13% is coming from gold. 

This proofs Suriname richness in gold, which sits in 15% of Suriname’s land mass. The biggest threat lies in the artisanal small scale mining sector -which has grown over the past 15 years- there is an observed relationship with the rise of the gold price over the past 15 years and the growth of artisanal small scale miners. Also, the purchase of the locally produced gold by the Central Bank of Suriname has led to an increase in small scale mining.

The most problematic issue with the artisanal small scale mining sector is that it consists of 20,000 to 25, 000 illegal miners. With their inefficient mining techniques they themselves are working under hazardous conditions and are causing substantial mercury pollution of the near lying aquatic ecosystems, which is a direct threat to the livelihoods of the local communities. Other effects of the illegal small scale mining concern the landscape destruction, erosion and river siltation. Mercury is easily and mostly used, since it is cheap for extracting gold. Per standard, for each kg of gold about 1 kg of mercury is lost in the environment. However, the gold rush in Suriname and the good intentions of the government to control and legalize the small scale mining activities have culminated in rougher illegal small scale mining practices in Suriname, whereby the miners are aiming for faster result by now using 5 kg of mercury for 1 kg gold. Considering the fact that the Central Bank had bought about 30,000 kg gold from local initiatives last year, it generally means that about 150, 000 kg of mercury was disposed in the environment.

These alarming findings have motivated the intentional formulation of a Mercury Free Partnership (MFP) in Suriname, between the public and the private sector. 
This partnership is aimed at creating such a development in Suriname in which the incomes are secured without the use of mercury. As first goal, this partnership will assist the government in working towards the signing of the Minamata Convention, from which the MFP is planning to set forth various projects and programs under this group which should result in mercury free mining techniques. Conservation International is the co-founder and one of the primary leading actors of the MFP. As an international environmental nonprofit organization, Conservation International (CI) is focused on conserving natural capital, the foundation of socio-economic development, and to propose a development model focused on achieving healthy, sustainable societies, using tools to promote sustainable production and consumption and the improvement of natural capital and governance.

In this partnership CI opts for the following:

  1. capacity building of small scale miners in mercury free mining techniques
  2. environmental awareness of the small scale miners in order to effectuate responsible mining
  3. creating awareness and opportunities in sustainable alternative livelihoods for the upcoming generation of Suriname in order get their considerations from gold mining, thereby creating intergenerational change

In this partnership CI sees a rare opportunity to optimize its mandate for developing a healthy sustainable Suriname, however not singly on its own terms and agenda, but through a highly effective approach, namely the collective impact approach.

The collective impact approach of the MFP is a long-term dedication by a group of important actors and stakeholders from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. In a review of the past 20 years of operations, CI has already concluded to set a new course in operation. As such, CI cheers the collective impact approach as the most suitable approach for resolving the complex social problems that obstruct its mandate and vision which is a healthy sustainable Suriname in order to keep Suriname the greenest country on earth. CI considers the MFP as the opportunity to more efficiently and effectively mobilize social change, pertaining to ultimate goal, through and in collaboration with a wider array of stakeholders. To bring about such a resource extensive paradigm shift, other organizations are welcome to join in.

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