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Report No.
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Artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Myanmar; Preliminary research for environmental mercury contamination

Osawa, Takahito; Hatsukawa, Yuichi

This study investigates artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Myanmar and presents analytical data on mercury pollution for the first time. The way of gold mining in Myanmar is detailed. The sampling and investigation areas were Kyaikhto in Mon State, Shwekyin in Bago Region, the middle reaches of the Ayeyarwaddy River in Mandalay and Sagaing regions, and north of Kalewa in Sagaing Region. The total mercury concentrations of river sediments and human hair samples were determined by cold vapor atomic absorption spectrometry. Some river sediments were contaminated and the highest mercury concentration of 81 ug/g was found in a sample from Ayeyarwaddy River. The total mercury concentrations in the hair of mineworkers ranged from 0.6 to 6.9 ug/g and the average value was 2.9 ug/g, which is 2.4 times higher than the value of non-mineworkers. Although the data obtained in this study was not sufficient, the results indicated that the environment of Myanmar may be contaminated with mercury that originated from artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Large-scale environmental investigation is required in the near future to determine the detailed situation for water quality and human health.

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