‘Environmentally friendly’ leaching agents found containing cyanide

Image: Department of Mines and Petroleum

Highly toxic sodium cyanide has been discovered in a processing product claiming to be environmentally friendly.

The product was advertised as an “environmentally friendly” alternative to cyanide for gold processing by an overseas-based company.

Several mining companies received samples of the product ‘Gold Dressing Agent’ and ‘Earth Gold’ and alerted the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum after tests found it contained sodium cyanide.

DMP Dangerous Goods and Petroleum Safety Director Iain Dainty said, “The samples that were tested were found to contain between 17 to 27 per cent sodium cyanide.”

“There are no warnings about the hazardous nature of the product, and it is potentially being transported and handled as if it were non-hazardous.”

Sodium cyanide is often used during gold processing in WA, and has strict transportation, handling, and storage regulations.

Dainty went on to say that the problem was the lack of warning of its dangers, adding that the substance can be dangerous without taking the right precautions.

He said mining companies should be cautious when dealing with products from suppliers claiming to have a sodium cyanide substitute.

“In the cases that have been identified, even the material safety data sheets that came with the samples had conflicting information and stated that the product required no hazardous chemical labelling,” he said.

“The department recommends that any product claiming to be a substitute for sodium cyanide should be handled as if it contains sodium cyanide until it can be verified otherwise by a reputable testing agency.

“If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.”

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