France’s Macron looks to regulate illegal gold mining in French Guiana

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 7:07 PM

By Sarah Morland

(Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday the government is seeking to designate new regulated gold mining zones in its South American territory of French Guiana to combat illegal mining and its environmental consequences.

In an address from the territory ahead of a three-day trip to Brazil, Macron said France was considering drafting a plan within three months for areas with important gold reserves.

Workers in these areas would be held to sustainable mining rules, Macron said, including an existing ban on mercury, a toxic metal small-scale and illegal miners use in extraction which leaks into rivers, oceans, forests and spreads to human populations.

Illegal miners in the territory release around 1.3 kg of mercury for each kilogram (2.2 lb) of gold extracted, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) data showed.

The program would bar illegal miners, many from neighboring countries, from entering these areas and limit their activities motivated by rising gold prices, Macron added.

Gold, a safe-haven asset which tends to rise in times of geopolitical risk, has added over 10% in value from a year ago, nearing $70 per gram.

Last year, Macron said an estimated five metric tons of gold had been extracted from the territory, most illegally, and 35 kg (0.04 tons) were seized by authorities.

Macron said seized gold would now be sold to return funds to the territory, notably through projects linked to remedying the impacts of illegal mining.

Macron said he is also looking to boost cooperation with Suriname and Brazil on breaking up illegal supply chains and improving military coordination, with the goal of finalizing a strategy by the 2025 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland; Editing by Richard Chang)