Mercury Free Mining Challenge
Transforming artisanal & small scale gold mining for the health of the world.


How We Got Here

From the Mercury Mining Challenge founder, Toby Pomeroy:

I’ve been a designer-goldsmith since 1967 and have owned jewelry retail, design, manufacturing and wholesale businesses. In 2004, through discovering the website, I realized that I was a willing participant in the metals mining industry which generates more toxic waste pollution than any other in the world. I had to admit that I had been part of a major problem!

I began looking for ways to bring sustainable practices to the jewelry industry and requested that Hoover and Strong Refiners in Virginia keep their scrap gold and silver separate from newly mined metals then purify them so we could provide for our customers 'reclaimed' or 'EcoGold' and 'EcoSilver'. They agreed and began selling us their traceable, responsibly sourced metals. Shortly thereafter, responding to the fervent interest, Hoover and Strong shifted their business to being a third-party certified refiner/manufacturer of only recycled gold and silver products.

This was a giant step forward, an historical event where, for the first time ever, we could purchase and confidently sell traceable, third-party certified, responsibly sourced precious metals. But still a great deal more work needed to be done.

In 2010 I joined the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) to develop and implement a standard for responsible mining designed to empower responsible mining communities and demonstrate to the world that responsible mining is possible! Certified Fairmined gold, silver and platinum are now available as a result of this commitment.

I visited several artisanal mining communities in Colombia and Bolivia and found artisanal miners to be a proud, passionate people and among the poorest people on the planet. They’re eking out a living as best they can, doing work that's backbreaking and dangerous with no social security net to rely on.

Many of the roughly 15 million artisanal and small-scale gold miners (ASGM) in developing countries use mercury, a permanent, potent neurotoxin, in order to be marginally efficient in capturing gold. They mine to live, and in the process inadvertently release approximately 8,000 lbs. of mercury into our environment every day.  They are poisoning themselves and the rest of us as mercury vapors and micro-particles are transported globally on winds and ocean currents.

Realizing that we live in truly extraordinary times with previously unimaginable capabilities where virtually anything we can imagine can be realized by tapping into our mind-blowing, exponentially advancing technologies and computing power, in 2017 I created the Mercury Free Mining Challenge on the HeroX platform, announcing our intention to raise a $1M prize to incentivize the discovery of a safe and effective mercury alternative for these millions of miners and the wellbeing of all life on earth.

We have an opportunity to make a global difference far beyond what we ever dreamed possible.