Why I don't buy gold or silver:
The facts about mining Gold & Silver
Mining is a dirty business in anyone’s language, but Gold & silver mining is particularly so – using processes that are very damaging to the environment.
Cyanide and heavy metal (especially mercury) poisoning of mine sites is a by-product of conventional leach mining practices and damage to the local ecology is common place thanks to workplace accidents — some of the most notorious incidents include the Baia Mare spill in northern Romania in 2000 that polluted the Danube and Tsiza rivers, Placer Dome’s Misima mine in Papua New Guinea that, in 2004, spilled cyanide into the ocean killing local marine life and the Kalgoorlie Gold Mine spillage into local groundwater in 2004.
To economically extract ever-decreasing supplies of raw Gold & silver, mining companies use a process called leach mining. This basically involves saturating ground-up rock with cyanide. Heavy metals, like Gold & silver, attach to the cyanide solution and can later be separated.
And whilst most responsible mining companies go to considerable efforts to prevent environmental damage, inevitably accidents happen. Sadly there is a very long list of accidents relating to cyanide spillages, failures of tailings dams and other industrial accidents.
Importantly, cyanide is only part of the problem. Industry supporters will quickly point out that cyanide biodegrades very quickly, but it’s the other heavy metals (like lead and mercury) trapped in the tailings and slurries that cause lasting damage. Add that to the fact that a lot of the world’s remaining Gold & silver deposits are located in ecologically sensitive areas and you have a recipe for disaster.
It also seems that economic status and legislative controls make little difference to where the damage happens. Serious accidents have been reported in several locations in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Romania, Hungary, China, Ghana, The Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea and many others.
The problem is so significant that Oxfam America and EARTHWORKS launched their No Dirty Gold campaign in 2004 — its purpose being to educate retailers and the general public about the true social and environmental cost of gold.
In Australia, the concept of ‘dirty gold’ is almost unheard of — and it seems even on a global scale, ‘dirty silver’ doesn’t even rate a mention (even though it’s produced using essentially the same cyanide leaching process used in gold mining).
Most platinum comes from South Africa, the United States, Russia, South America and Canada, with South Africa and Russia producing some 60% of the total. (It’s estimated that 90% of the world’s remaining supplies are in South Africa.)
Like Gold & silver, platinum is a dwindling resource — and is even more difficult to recover (hence its higher price). It’s actually more plentiful in the Earth’s crust than the other two precious metals, but production volumes are only around 10% of those of Gold & around 1% of silver volumes.
There are three factors that make platinum hard to recover:
The depth of deposits (for example, the Merensky Reef is South Africa is nearly 1.5km below ground)
Low concentration — most platinum metals are in fine granular form, widely dispersed in the ore (on average around 2 to 3 tonnes of ore must be processed to recover enough platinum for one wedding ring); and
Chemical bonding with other platinum group metals. Less than half of all platinum group metals mined wind up as true platinum — and it can take five times longer than gold to extract.
On the socio-political side, South Africa is the main ‘hot bed’. Some publications report widespread dislocation and oppression of local populations, including imprisonment of dissident leaders, violent quelling of protests, destruction of crops and intentional polluting of community water supplies.
On the other hand, other publications (like The Times) report a beneficial local economic boom — job creation, infrastructure development, real estate value increases and the like. Either way, unlike Gold & silver, platinum has significant uses outside of jewelery (it’s an irreplaceable component in car exhaust systems for example) — so the jewelery industry is not the major production driver.
When it comes to ‘dirty’ Gold & silver, unfortunately there is almost no public awareness of the issue in Australia. Even inside the industry, very few jewelers are aware of the damage conventional mining of Gold & silver does to the environment.
When we buy these metals in any form, even from recyclers, we drive the market prices, and this drives more mining.
Maybe it is smart, economically, but it's a big fuck you to the planet and its life.
Edited by Alder Logs, 29 March 2017 - 12:40 PM.