Mining Impact Calculator for the Ecuadorian Amazon

Region & Country

It is widely understood that there is a lack of data and evidence-based information on the socio-environmental costs of illegal Artisanal and Small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in the Amazon region. Because of this, there are limits to a country’s ability to regulate mining activities and safeguard communities from the environmental threats of ASGM. 

In 2021, CSF developed a Mining Impacts Calculator to obtain instant calculations of damages expressed in monetary values for different ASGM infractions based on information on gold mining type and important contextual characteristics. The Calculator was initially developed for the Brazilian Amazon to be used by the Brazilian Public Prosecutors Office and the Federal Police, among other actors. To tackle ASGM impacts at scale and promote sustainable regional solutions, it is important to expand this economic approach to regulations and policies in other countries in the Amazon. 

In 2022, CSF will adapt our Mining Impacts Calculator to the ASGM sector in Ecuador. About 85% of Ecuador’s gold production comes from the ASGM sector, amounting to more than seven tons of gold produced every year (Arcom, 2019; Ministry of Mines, 2016). Most ASGM is informal or illegal and adequate environmental management is lagging. Although prohibited since 2015, mercury use is still common and it is estimated that about 1,76 kgs of mercury are used for every kg of gold mined in the country (Velasquez-Lopez, 2010). Our goal is to adapt the Mining Impacts Calculator for use in Ecuador and engage new users in the country to equip them with information and tools to guide smarter decisions and more sustainable investments in the ASGM sector. 

This project is a part of the Conservation X Labs’ Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge: The Amazon. CSF is proud to have been selected as one of 13 finalists for the challenge, and to have the ongoing support of our partners The Nature Conservancy Ecuador and the Fundación Paisajes Sostenibles in this project. Our collaboration with these partners will help ensure the dissemination of our Mining Impact Calculator across Ecuador. 

We aim to present the Mining Impact Calculator to local stakeholders and national authorities and members from the national and subnational governments in Ecuador, including among them Public Prosecutors, Judiciary members, as well as local environmental authorities, civil society organizations, environmental defenders, and local and indigenous communities as potential users of the tool, in order to get validation of the tool and to provide them training to use the online tool according to their needs.

In response to the success of our Mining Calculator in Brazil, CSF will scale up the development and use of the Mining Impact Calculator in other Amazonian countries, such as Ecuador, to provide them with a reliable economic online tool to measure the socio-environmental costs of ASGM activities.