Miners and Mining Communities’ Health

iners and associated mining communities suffered varieties of health issues and diseases such as respiratory distress and lung disease from toxic inhalation, and vomiting, headache, fever, chills, abdominal pains, and diarrhea from absorption of elemental mercury.

Miners are experiencing exposure to crystalline silica, which is the risk of silicosis, lung cancer, and pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) as higher incidence rates.

Miners’ respiratory function declined with longer mining activity duration due to inhaling the dust, causing damage to their lungs and making it difficult for them to breathe.

Around 76,000 miners died from Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis (CWP) (also known as “black lung disease”) between 1968 and 2014 according to the date report of the Federal Mine Safety Health Administration. ASGM miners also suffered black lung disease due to the result of breathing the dust particles while drilling and crushing the ore rocks for a prolonged period.

Moreover, the use of mercury in ASGM causes environmental and occupational health problems. Since ancient times, mercury has been used as a traditional method of extracting gold from ore rock or deposits.  But mercury is extremely toxic that severely threatens human health especially the fetus and early childhood development. The use of mercury in each step of the gold amalgam process makes mercury toxicity. The toxicity of mercury affects the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, and on the lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes. Finally, the miners have symptoms of a damaging sense of balance, and motor skills lead to body convulsions which can later lead to death.

Besides those issues, the use of cyanide in ASGM activities has become the seriousness of global environmental problems. For example, the water and agricultural products nearby ASGM mining were accumulated by heavy metals and they are not safe for drinking and eating. Therefore, those intoxicated water and foods affect the health and well-being of the miners, their family members, and also nearby communities.

In addition, ASGM communities especially miners are vulnerable to a variety of social problems such as lack of health care and education facilities and capacities, child labor, domestic violence, migration-related issues, human trafficking, etc.

[1] Perry Gottesfeld, Damian Andrew & Jeffrey Dalhoff (2015) Silica Exposures in Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining in Tanzania and Implications for Tuberculosis Prevention, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 12:9, 647-653, DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2015.1029617 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/15459624.2015.1029617

[2] Global Mercury Project

[3] The Guardian (2018), Black lung disease is still killing miners. The coal industry won’t hear it
Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/13/dr-dust-the-man-who-discovered-a-hidden-black-lung-epidemic#:~:text=The%20federal%20Mine%20Safety%20Health,compensation%20alone%20cost%20%2445bn.

[4] Artisanal Gold Council


Each one of us suffers the consequence of environmental pollution problems since the industrial revolution. Minamata disease is one of the consequence of environmental pollutions due to the mercury poisoning.

Exposure to mercury threatens human health especially developing fetuses and young children are at a higher risk.

The awareness of mercury intoxication and the sources of contamination should be alerted in order to prevent the health and pollution problems.