Do Mining and Pollution Always Go Together?

A huge number of environmentalists would momentarily agree with this assertion, without even thinking about it twice. But, what they don’t usually consider is that a lot of things have changed since the first half of the 20th century. Back then, it was really dangerous to mine for both the workers and the rest of the planet. You need to understand that people were very greedy in that particular period because gold resources gold seemed infinite, and on the other hand, it’s not like anyone thought about the environment and the ways to protect it, because some things about pollution weren’t as obvious as they are today. A huge number of mines were opened then, and the land appeared to be adoptable to every human need we could come up with.

Now, when our awareness is raised a bit more, we can put our collective strengths into fixing the damage we’ve caused. But, there’s something else to bare in mind as well – a significant part of the world’s economy is depending on gold mining.

What’s there to think about other than environment?

This may seem like a cruel question to ask, but the human kind has distanced itself from nature. This isn’t a good choice to make, obviously, but we need to take a look at our situation objectively. Did you know that $78.4 billion worldwide were extracted from gold mining just in 2012? There are some countries whose prosperity strictly depends on how much gold they can mine – the whole situation sounds more serious now, right?

Just think about what would happen if we’d make gold mining illegal – some countries, like Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Indonesia would be left with no other choice than to declare bankruptcy. When we talk about people working in gold mining, there are so much more employees than those who’re actually located in the mines – what about export, retail and processing? If we’re talking about a noble cause such as environment protection, we need to have some smaller things in mind, like families for example.

Which substances need to be handled in strictly controlled conditions?

Despite the overall effect gold has on the global plan, some things need to be changed. The process of gold extraction is followed by the usage of some dangerous substances that need to be handled more than carefully.

●     NaCN

Sodium Cyanide is constantly used in the gold extraction industry, but what people often neglect is how deadly it can be. The usage of this substance should be alarming – what many people don’t know is that it was used during the Holocaust and Middle Eastern Wars as a toxic weapon. However, this is a chemical that naturally appears, and not all its forms are toxic. It’s been used for a while now, and the safe conditions for transport and usage during the extraction are already applied. Also, it’s biodegradable, so there’s no need for panic, just for caution.

●     Hg

Mercury, or quicksilver, is extremely rare in the Earth’s crust. It’s been used to process gold and silver since the beginning, but it’s highly toxic for all living things. Today, using quicksilver in this industry is illegal, but there are a lot of people still using it – it’s estimated that about a thousand tons of this deadly substance is being discharged into the air, soil and water on yearly bases. This particular problem is worked on – ICMM (International Council of Mining and Metals) is directly affecting those countries by providing them with other techniques and resources.

●     ARD

The Acid Rock Drainage process occurs whenever these particular types of rocks come in contact with air or water. This is a natural process, but it’s sometimes being forced during mining. When this acid comes in contact with high levels of metal, it dissolves them, and that, in many ways, contributes to water pollution. It’s very important to stop counting on our luck and to raise awareness about it – these hazards can be prevented. There are a lot of studies that show which types of rocks shouldn’t be disturbed, and the whole gold mining industry needs to start applying this knowledge.

There’s no easy way here. Thanks to the development of technology, we can develop safe conditions to extract and process gold without affecting nature and causing more damage (like there’s not enough things to deal with so far). In order to sustain the global level of economy necessary, so that numerous families can lead normal lives, we need our precious metals. But, we also need to look after our future.

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