Did you know that the cost of one gold wedding band is tens of tons of toxic waste added to the world?
For years, gold mining has been one of the biggest and most destructive industries worldwide. It doesn’t only alter a landscape; it can also leave it in pure ruins.
While most people know the negative impacts of pure gold mining, few know how severe it is. Some consumers don’t even have the slightest clue of how gold gets mined. Read on to discover the truth about how pure gold mining impacts the world.
Acid Mine Drainage
One of the biggest effects of gold mining is its environmental impact. Dirty gold mining often results in the recurring issue of poisoned waters. Mining for pure gold will always leave huge damages to the nearest water resources.
Mining, especially from artisanal operations, often involves a lot of hazardous chemicals. Some of these include arsenic, lead, mercury, and cyanide. Once bodies of water like streams and lakes get exposed to these chemicals, waterway contamination is likely to happen.
Gold mining also contaminates drinking water sources of animals and nearby human communities. Aside from that is the issue called acid mine drainage.
This happens when the underground rocks get disturbed by mining operations. Due to mining, these rocks get exposed to air and water. The iron sulfides in those rocks will then react with oxygen.
The reaction will then form sulfuric acid that mixes in with water, turning it into acidic water. This kind of water draining from the mines has over 20 to 300 times more concentration than acid rain. In more ways than one, it’s more toxic for any living organisms when consumed.
When acid mine drainage starts, it’s more difficult to control. It can also be too late to prevent contamination to the nearest aquatic life.
Destruction of Natural Habitats
Most, if not all, kinds of gold mining include altering natural landscapes. This massive amount of soil and rock moving is a big danger to surrounding wildlife shelters. Toxic mining wastes can pollute and poison aquatic life.
Not only will the whole river become unsuited for any kind of life, but it can also cause a depletion in the population of fish. In connection to that, communities whose livelihood depends on it also get affected.
The mining industry also holds a long record for being a threat to many natural and protected areas. Many active gold mines and sites around the globe intersect with high conservation areas. This makes them a major threat to biodiversity.
When it comes to the impact of mining on the planet, mercury causes the biggest stir. This isn’t only because of how toxic it is but also what it is now used for.
In many artisanal and small-scale mining operations, mercury plays a crucial part. This liquid metal is necessary to extract gold from rocks and sediments. Many bad practices cause man-made mercury pollution alongside fossil fuels.
Once it enters the earth’s atmosphere, it can travel long distances quickly. It can also become airborne and pollute the air.
Continuous exposure to mercury can lead to kidney, brain, and even heart damage. It can also result in fatigue, tremors, and shifts in behavior. Developing fetuses may also suffer from impaired brain development.
While methods for mercury-free pure gold mining are in development, it’ll take a while before mercury pollution lessens.
Mining for pure gold means always digging up ore and displacing earth and rock. When you begin to process ore, more wastes pile up. This is because only a small total of the ore mass has recoverable metal.
With that in mind, a lot of miners use heap leaching. This is a process that makes use of dripping a cyanide solution through the collected ores.
The cyanide solution sheds the gold away that is then collected in a pond. They are then run through another electrochemical process to complete gold extraction. While this is cost-effective, it’s also wasteful because almost all the heap becomes toxic waste.
Fixing and cleaning up all the toxic piles from mining is time-consuming and expensive. Because of that, many companies leave the heaps to cut costs. This results in underground water contamination that can poison neighboring towns and cities.
Health Risks and Accidents
Working underground with over three dozen of chemicals leads to various health risks. Most, if not, all gold miners have a decreased life expectancy rate. They also become more prone to different types of cancer like lung, stomach, and tracheal.
Miners and other people exposed to the mining sites can experience chronic pleural diseases. They can also get infected with combinations of viral and bacterial diseases.
HIV infection and excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption in miners are high. Artisanal miners also develop musculoskeletal illnesses from mercury pollution.
People often think that mining is a big industry with huge employment opportunities. That’s where they’re wrong. While that was the case decades ago, right now mining only accounts for a small percentage of the world’s workforce.
In fact, a lot of economists learned that countries that rely on mining have the slowest economic growth. Developing countries that are rich in minerals also have the highest poverty rates. This is because of their high dependence on natural resource exports.
It’s also unfortunate to note that only a few countries can hold mining companies accountable for their damages. Even then, mining companies don’t pay for all their mine clean-ups. This leaves the government to use taxes for the clean-ups.
A Look at the Current Impact of Pure Gold Mining to the World
For decades, pure gold mining gained its reputation for giving the most damages to the planet. Aside from its obvious environmental impact, mining also cripples the economy and society.
Awareness of the impact of pure gold mining is a good first step to sustainable living. Bit by bit, the whole world can stop and prevent more damage this industry is causing.
If you want to learn how you can do your part in sustainable living, check out our other blog posts.