Strategies for Rehabilitating Mercury-contaminated Mining lands in Colombia for Renewable Energy and other Sustainable Re-use

This project which was conducted from June 2016 to March 2017, funded by the UK government and supported by the Colombian Ministries of Mining and Environment and Sustainable Development.


Gold mining using mercury recovery techniques has resulted in severe health and environmental impacts in large areas of Colombia. With approximately 4,200 active and abandoned gold mines and some 3,000 additional artisanal locations, 80,000 hectares are estimated to be contaminated with mercury in Colombia, especially by artisanal methods.  Focusing on the triple bottom line, a range of science- based gentle remediation strategies are considered to rehabilitate land affected by soil mercury pollution in disadvantaged areas in Colombia, and bring it back into productive use focusing on renewable energy generation.


With strategic funding from the United Kingdom and closely partnering with Colombian Federal state and local entities, an international consortium will transfer  state of the art  sustainable remediation knowledge and successful implementation from the UK, EU and North America,  adapting it to the local situation. Specific activities include:

  • Technology evaluations and bench scale test work including biochar for mercury stabilization that will form an on-site field testing plan for techniques that promises to be replicable to other similarly contaminated sites.
  • Adaptation of international project decision support tools  (EU GREENLAND and  HOMBRE Brownfields Opportunity matrix,  and  U.S. RE-Powering America) to conditions in Colombia.

Results/ Lessons Learned

  1. Experimental findings for mercury immobilisation using biochar.
  2. Site specific feasibility evaluations for mercury stabilisation and renewable energy production.
  3. High level review of brownfield land re-use potential for renewable energy identifying opportunities for community and/or Colombian commercial enterprise.
  4. Broader guidance (including policy briefs and stakeholder engagement) on maximising the sustainability and value of restoring mining land for renewables and other non-built re-uses in Colombia.

These project results are expected to have wider relevance to other forms of degraded land in Colombia as well as in neighbouring countries and emerging economies globally.

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