Small-scale gold mining is a dangerous job. Health and safety procedures are usually absent. Miners are constantly exposed to dust, mercury and cyanide. Heavy lifting and working in awkward positions take their toll on the human body. Also, sometimes a mining pit collapses and miners get buried alive.
Governments and researchers have given few attention to the occupational health of small-scale gold miners working in the mining pit. However, there is a tendency of Latin American governments to formalize the sector and to make sure that all miners are registered. This does not only mean that these miners will have to pay taxes, but it also means acknowledging that there is a labor force with a basic human right to safe working conditions.
In an ideal situation, mine operators should be made responsible for the safety at their mine sites. There should be an obligation to protect workers, enforced by governmental rules and regulations.
Several NGOs have attempted to improve the hazardous working conditions and to limit the environmental degradation by promoting responsible mining. A good example is the Fairtrade-Fairmined Gold standard, which was introduced by Solidaridad, partner of GOMIAM.