Cyanide and society: a critical review

T.I. Mudder1* and M. Botz2

1 TIMES Limited, 1604 Leopard Street, Sheridan, WY 82801 USA
2 Elbow Creek Engineering, Inc., 67 Goose Lane, Sheridan, WY 82801 USA

Received 14 September 2004; accepted 10 October 2004


Chemical replacements for cyanide have been investigated for decades; however cyanide remains the exclusive lixiviant of choice in the mining industry due to a combination of its availability, effectiveness, economics and ability to use it with acceptable risk to humans and the environment. About 90% of the significant gold producing operations worldwide currently utilize cyanide for gold and silver extraction. Despite the number of cyanide-related mining operations, there have been no documented accounts during the previous three decades of the death of humans due to cyanide as a direct consequence of major mining-related environmental incidents. Major mining-related environmental incidents have not been concentrated in any geographic location, may occur regardless of the size of the company and do not occur more frequently with a specific type of mining activity. The main aspects of cyanide management that should be addressed at mining operations include transportation of cyanide to site, process solution conveyance, worker health and safety training, water management and treatment, emergency response and preparedness, workplace and environmental monitoring, and community relations. If these aspects of cyanide management are integrated into an overall cyanide management plan, dramatic reductions in risk and potential incidents at mine sites will be realized.

Keywords: Cyanide; Gold; Mining; Treatment; Environmental management

* Corresponding author
   E-mail : cyunara@aol.com