The borax method of gold extraction has been used by artisanal gold miners in the Benguet area north of Manila in the Philippines for more than 30 years. Some believe it was in practice as early as the 1900s.[who?] The method is increasingly being seen as a safe alternative to the widespread use of toxic mercury in artisanal gold mining today. About 30% of the world's mercury emissions comes from small scale mining. Efforts are being made to revive the method and spread its use. As of 2012, around 15,000 artisanal gold miners in a small area of Luzon, the main island in the northern portion of the Philippines, use this method exclusively. The mineral is inexpensive and easily available, and the miners have reportedly found that more gold is recovered through its use.
In contrast to the use of mercury (which relies on amalgamation of the impurities) this method relies on borax's ability to lower all the minerals' melting points, including that of gold. Since the gold is usually the heaviest of these minerals, it allows for concentrating the gold on the bottom of the crucible. The process requires considerably less heat than conventional refining methods, which can be obtainable even in remote locations (using charcoal).
After the ore is crushed into a fine powder, it's lightly panned to leave only the heaviest minerals in the pan. It's then thoroughly mixed by three times (by volume) as much of borax and a few drops of water. This mixture is then heated until the whole mixture is molten, after which molten droplets of gold collect on the bottom of the crucible.
- Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. The Borax Method (PDF).
- Appel, Peter W. U.; Leoncio Na-Oy (2012-06-28). "The Borax Method of Gold Extraction for Small-Scale Miners". Blacksmith Institute Journal of Health and Pollution. 2 (3). doi:10.5696/jhp.v2i3.48. ISSN 2156-9614. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
- Video of the borax method