Mining Impact Calculator for the Ecuadorian Amazon

Region & Country

In the Amazon, a lack of data and evidence-based information on the socio-environmental costs of illegal artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) limits 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 that provides instant calculations of damages expressed in monetary values for different ASGM infractions using information on gold mining type and important contextual characteristics. The Calculator was initially developed for the Brazilian Amazon for the Brazilian Public Prosecutors Office and the Federal Police, among other actors. However, to tackle ASGM impacts at scale and promote sustainable regional solutions, it quickly became apparent this tool could  be immensely useful in other countries in the Amazon. 

In 2022, CSF adapted the 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 (1). Most ASGM is informal or illegal and adequate environmental management is lagging. Although prohibited since 2015, mercury use is still common- with an estimated 1.76 kilograms used for every kilogram of gold mined in the country. Our goal was to adapt the Mining Impacts Calculator for use in Ecuador and equip users with information and tools to guide smarter decisions and more sustainable investments in the ASGM sector. 

This project was 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 had the ongoing support of our partners The Nature Conservancy Ecuador and the Fundación Paisajes Sostenibles in this project. Our collaboration with these partners helped us to disseminate our Mining Impact Calculator to Ecuadorian local stakeholders and national authorities in Ecuador, including the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, Escuela Politécnica Nacional, and civil society as potential users of the tool, validating the tool and providing training for use according to their needs. 

As part of the project, CSF also participated in “Innovation XChange”, a conference to elevate innovation and creativity in the global effort to conserve the Amazon rainforest. We presented the benefits of the Mining Impacts Calculator in Brazil and detailed the progress of the Calculator adaptation to Ecuador as part of the challenge. This event was an opportunity to show the easy and practical use of the calculator to all the participants. 

See the website of our innovation (Spanish & English), one-pager (Spanish & English).

(1)  PNUD (2021), Análisis TSA en el sector de la Minería Artesanal y de Pequeña Escala de oro en Ecuador.