case studies

Nambija Gold Mine - Ecuador



Government of Ecuador


Nambija Gold Mine – Ecuador

When you think of South American countries along the equator, you often imagine plenty of rain and lush rainforests.  Ecuador is one such country with beautiful regions of mountainous rainforests, yet also includes a stunning coastline and agricultural plains.  During seasonal rains, waterfalls can be found gushing in the steep mountain ravines. 

Ecuador is rich in three natural resources: oil, silver and gold.  There is a small village in southern Ecuador near Samora that is hidden away in the rainforest.  It is called Nambija and it sits on a mountain where villagers conduct artisan mining for gold.  Using mercury to amalgamate the gold, these villagers end up touching the mercury, eat it because it is in the soil, drink it because of the gold panning process, and breath it when acid is used to separate the mercury from the gold. 

Recognizing the grave health implications of using mercury, the Ecuadorian government is looking to convert the Nambija mine into an open-pit mine that would eliminate the use of mercury and increase gold production yield by 200%.   

CAESER was asked by the Ministry of Mining to look into how best to move the village of Nambija (population 2,000) to a better location and ensure that the villagers had:  

  1. Adequate and clean water 
  2. Uncontaminated soil for growing crops 
  3. Available land for farming 
  4. Available space for housing 
  5. Minimal likelihood of landslides at the village or along the transportation route 

Using GIS, CAESER was able to identify five areas that possibly met the criteria. During a visit to the area, CAESER conducted field reconnaissance using ESRI’s ArcPad ® on a handheld device. 

It is hoped that this project will be executed by the Ministry and that CAESER will be able to help the Ecuadorian government help the villagers of Nambija.