One of the techniques used in extracting gold in small-scale gold mining is mercury amalgamation. However, the use of mercury presents significant health and environmental hazards, as well as suboptimal efficiency in gold extraction. This study explores the possibility of the use of rice husk as a prototype adsorbent for mercury removal from its leaching in mining environments. To support the analysis, the rice husk adsorbent was characterized by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, electron dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, atomic absorption spectrophotometers and Brunauer − Emmett − Teller analysis. To investigate the removal of Hg from aqueous solutions, batch adsorption experiments were conducted, and the efficiency was optimized under various parameters such as contact time, rice husk dosage, and initial concentration of mercury. Kinetic and isotherm investigations were also carried out to gain a better understanding of the adsorption properties. The kinetic adsorption was analyzed using the pseudo-first-order and pseudo-second-order. Furthermore, the isotherm adsorption was analyzed using ten adsorption isotherm models (i.e., Langmuir, Freundlich, Temkin, Dubinin – Radushkevich, Flory – Huggins, Fowler – Guggenheim, Hill – de Boer, Jovanovic, Harkin – Jura, and Halsey). The amount of mercury absorption increased with increasing contact time, adsorbent mass, and initial concentration of mercury. The pseudo-second-order kinetic model is the best model that can be applied to describe the adsorption process. Analysis of the adsorption results obtained shows that the adsorption pattern is explained through the formation of a monolayer without any lateral interaction between the adsorbate and adsorbent. In addition, the formation of multilayers due to inhomogeneous pore distribution also occurs which causes a pore filling mechanism. We found that the isotherm phenomena are near the Jovanovic models with the maximum adsorption capacity) of rice husk found to be 107.299 mg/g. As a result, rice husk could be a promising option for wastewater treatment due to its fast and efficient removal capacity, as well as its affordability and eco-friendliness. The predicted thermodynamic studies using the Flory – Huggins isotherm model show that the adsorption process is endothermic, spontaneous, and physisorption. The impact shows that the utilization of rice husk can be used and fit for the current issues in the sustainable development goals (SDGs).