Dirty Gold? by Guest Blogger, July 28 2008, 0 Comments

Gold Mining

Copyright: olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo

 

Gold mining, once the realm of California prospectors, has in recent years become a source of major environmental harm. A large majority of the new gold produced today is mined from large open-pit mines: craters that are literally blasted into the earth. These open-pit mines—some of which are so massive they can be seen from space—cause huge environmental problems, far more than the well-known underground mines. The waste rock that had once been in the ground is typically left in piles near the mine.

Other than a disruption to ecosystems, this removal of waste rock can cause minerals to leach into streams and groundwater, turning waters highly acidic. Also, large pieces of gold are rarely found nowadays. Thus, in these pit mines, tiny pieces of gold must be removed from the mined material with the use of toxic chemicals like cyanide, which can then pollute waterways. The creation of one new gold ring is responsible for 20 tons of cyanide-laced waste. Additionally, the gold refining process requires large inputs of energy, which contributes to air pollution significantly. 

Fortunately, there are alternatives to purchasing this problematic metal. Many companies now use sustainable sources of gold to create the jewelry they sell. These sources include antique and industrial items that are no longer in use, which can be melted down to produce an essentially renewableand clean—source of metal. This process eliminates the need for environmentally damaging mining, and therefore prevents the release of thousands of tons of toxic waste. With a price comparable to that of traditional gold, sustainable jewelry offers a reasonable and environmentally friendly alternative.

 

Guest Blogger: Jessie Mee