No life cycle assessment (LCA) of artisanal and small-scale mining activities (A&Sma) has been identified as of today, and there are limited studies about large-scale mining and alluvial mining. The A&Sma are relevant economic sectors in countries with large reserves of mineral resources. Gold is the most representative metal mined with these practices and is used not only in jewelry but also in several electronics appliances. South America accounted for 17% of the total worldwide gold extraction in 2005; A&Sma occurred mostly in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.
The aim of this study is to estimate environmental indicators using methodologies for life cycle inventories (LCIs) in one of the two largest producers of gold through A&Sma in South America, Peru, and to discuss possible indicators for A&Sma in South America. Different functional units were used for each case study, as gold with different concentrations was produced and it was not possible to collect data for downstream processes for both bases. The product systems start in the mining and end with the gold production. Data were collected in two mining sites and, later on, related to the functional units. The results showed the amount of energy and water consumed as well as mercury used and released, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and solid wastes for each type of gold produced.