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Dissertation Defence: Risk Management Framework for Methylmercury in Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining

July 24, 2023 at 8:30 am - 12:30 pm

Hadisu Alhassan, supervised by Dr. Nicolas Peleato and Dr. Rehan Sadiq, will defend their dissertation titled “Risk Management Framework for Methylmercury in Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering.

An abstract for Hadisu Alhassan’s dissertation is included below.

Examinations are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public.

Please email nicolas.peleato@ubc.ca to receive the zoom link for this defence.


Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is largely a poverty-driven activity that has become the largest contributor (i.e., 38%) to mercury pollution globally. There is growing evidence that the sector is expanding rapidly with an increased emission of mercury into the environment. Mercury is a toxic chemical that has a detrimental effect on human health. With methylmercury being the most toxic form of mercury, and having a bioaccumulative property, fish consumption poses a major health risk. Data on mercury in ASGM communities is scarce and therefore makes evaluating methylmercury health risks difficult. This research developed a methylmercury risk management framework. This was achieved by applying a multi-species fugacity mass balance fate and transport model to predict mercury. The model incorporated uncertainty by defining statistical distributions for input parameters. The concentrations and fugacities of the various species of mercury were determined for the air, water, and sediment compartments. Subsequently, the 95th percentile of the bulk water concentration of methylmercury was used with bioconcentration factor to determine fish tissue methylmercury concentration, which formed the basis for the development of a probabilistic health risk model. Following the estimation of chronic daily intake and using a reference dose of methylmercury, the health risk was found to be unacceptable beyond the 2.5th percentile on the hazard quotient distribution. However, scenario analyses demonstrated that reducing mercury emissions by 20% could reduce risk by about 60%. To help reduce/eliminate methylmercury health risk, the framework further provides a means of selecting optimal alternative mining techniques using uncertainty-based multicriteria decision analysis. Finally, a review of ASGM sector formalization was conducted to assess the impact of regulatory policies on mercury pollution. The assessment indicated that Ghana, like many other countries, largely failed in its quest to formalize the ASGM sector. The research concludes that reducing excessive bureaucratic steps to formalization, reviewing certain laws pertaining to the duration and sizes of ASM concessions, and properly engaging stakeholders are essential to effective sector regulation and a reduction in mercury pollution.


July 24, 2023
8:30 am - 12:30 pm

Additional Info

Registration/RSVP Required
Yes (see event description)
Event Type
Thesis Defence
Research and Innovation, Science, Technology and Engineering
Alumni, Community, Faculty, Staff, Families, Partners and Industry, Students, Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates