Learn more about our community outreach field projects in Colombia and Peru.

Education @ Mines & Beyond

Explore PIRE related education that focuses on artisanal small-scale mining. Introducing Colorado School of Mines programs, partner universities, and Mines brand new M.S. in Humanitarian Engineering. 


We are an interdisciplinary, multi-institution, and global research collaboration funded by the US National Science Foundation. Our goal is to co-design socially responsible and sustainable mining practices with communities, engineers, and social scientists.

What is ASGM?

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) takes place primarily in the developing world in both the formal and informal sectors. It is generally characterized by relatively simple technologies and lower yields as compared to large-scale industrial mining. Approximately 30% of the gold used worldwide comes from ASGM. This gold is used in jewelry, finances, electronics, aerospace, and medicine.

This style of mining has become a matter of global concern because of its environmental and health impacts. Artisanal mining is a leading cause of deforestation in places such as the Amazon. To process the ore, miners often use mercury – an element that is highly toxic. Using mercury is harmful to the environment, because it contaminates the air, water, and soil, and causes deforestation. Mercury is also harmful to humans and causes chronic diseases.

ASGM is an important way of life for millions of people around the world. Efforts to change this practice by using mercury-free alternatives have not been widely adopted in part because they have not been designed with miners’ concerns and needs in mind. Our project will improve this effort by working together with miners and affected communities in Colombia and Peru. Our mission is to jointly design, implement, and evaluate ASGM technologies and practices. In this way, the people most directly impacted will have a voice in deciding which alternative methods for mining and mineral processing are most fitting.

Student Perspective

Rosalie O’Brien is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado School of Mines.  She works on a multidisciplinary National Science Foundation research project that focuses on artisanal and small-scale gold mining communities in Colombia and Peru.  As an environmental engineer, her interests are directed at hazardous waste contamination in the environment and co-creating remediation strategies with mining communities to clean up various contaminants of concern, such as mercury and cyanide. Her research project will take her to Colombia during the summer of 2019, where she will work with and live in the communities that this project targets.

The 2019 -2020 PIRE RMRC Scholars

Colombia 2018

View our gallery from the our trip to Colombia Summer 2018!


 Learn more about outside resources involving ASGM, corporate social responsibility and  international conferences.

Learn more about the project and team in these recent news articles

This project is currently funded by the National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) through award #1743749.