Five Things You Need to Know to Help Clean Up the Dirtiest Business on the Planet
It’s in your home and in your car.
It’s in your pocket and on your finger.
It’s in every electronic device we know of.
Its value is so iconic, “wealth” as an idea has always been associated with whoever holds most of it.
We’re talking about gold.
How Much Has This Wealth Crusade Cost The Planet?
Love it or hate it, for a long time it’s been the one way of valuing our currency, even after the abolition of the gold standard.
Albeit one of the most intrinsically valued precious metals on earth, we can’t help wonder how much has this wealth crusade cost the planet? Let’s take a look…
Here are a few facts about gold mining that may tarnish your opinion of this beautiful metal.
How Much Gold is There?
The first fact you should know is how much gold there actually is in the world. Currently, it’s believed that there are approximately 190,000 tonnes of gold existing above ground. How much of that do you think was mined in a safe and eco-friendly way?
Let’s take a look at the numbers to find out.
Distribution of global gold demand by industry in 2019:
- Jewellery is the largest gold-demanding industry worldwide
- The jewellery industry accounted for 48.5 percent of global gold demand in 2019, which amounted to about 2,118.6 metric tonnes
- Besides jewellery, gold has many different useful applications. One use is conducting, as it’s a highly efficient conductor that can carry tiny electrical currents
- Gold is found in mobile phones and televisions
- It’s also used in dentistry for fillings and crowns since it’s easy to insert
- The world production of gold mines has increased steadily since 2005
- In 2005, about 2,470 metric tonnes of gold were produced, and in 2019 about 3,300 metric tonnes
- The countries that produced the largest amount of gold in 2019 were China, Australia, and Russia. China produced an estimated 420 metric tonnes, Australia 330 metric tonnes, and Russia 310 metric tonnes
That’s a lot of gold!
Let’s look at what goes into mining this much gold and what all of this mining has created.
How Much Mining Waste Does Gold Create?
This is a big question, so let’s start simple – with a single gold wedding band.
Gold rings are known as symbols of love, commitment, and intention to remain in a lifelong relationship. Obviously we know there are going to be at least two gold rings at every wedding in this world, yet, our beloved earth is not feeling the love in regard to the damage gold mining truly does.
According to estimates found at earthworks.org, a single gold ring can generate 20 tonnes of toxic mining waste from mercury, cyanide, and arsenic.
This waste doesn’t just go away, it leaches into our air, water, and precious earth and then makes its way into our bodies, and the bodies of all that we consume.
Almost Half of Gold Demand Comes From the Jewellery Industry
Considering that almost half of all gold demand in the world comes from the jewelry industry, this adds up to be an astronomical amount of pollution.
Below is a graph showing the top thirteen industries that contribute to global mercury pollution.
One example is Papua New Guinea. The Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea is responsible for the dumping of more than 5 million tonnes of toxic waste into the Pacific each year, responsible for the destruction of coral reefs and other ocean life forms.
Worldwide, companies mining for gold and other metals, in total, dump at least 180 million tonnes of toxic waste into rivers, lakes, and oceans each year—more than 1.5 times the waste that U.S. cities send to landfills on a yearly basis.
Whew! That’s serious.
What is Artisanal Mining?
Artisanal miners make up a major proportion of gold mining globally.
An artisanal miner or small-scale miner (ASM) is a subsistence miner who is not officially employed by a mining company but works independently, mining minerals using their own resources, usually by hand.
Small-scale mining includes enterprises or individuals that employ workers for mining, generally using manually-intensive methods, working with hand tools. According to the EPA and the UN, about 20% of the world’s gold is produced by the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector. This sector is also responsible for the largest releases of mercury to the environment of any sector globally. A major source of air pollution from mercury, artisanal and small-scale gold mining releases approximately 400 metric tonnes of airborne elemental mercury each year.
Does Illegal Gold Mining Still Exist?
Back in the old days, miners and prospectors used to stake their claim and start digging. As miners became more crafty and found new ways to extract gold from the earth, others noticed the large amounts of waste and disruption that followed. Governmental bodies then set in place regulations to prevent these things from happening. Not everyone cares about the earth in the same way.
For example, illegal gold production in the South American nation of Peru has, in fact, increased fivefold in the last six years and is estimated to provide 100,000 direct jobs in the country with an estimated 40,000 of them in the Madre de Dios region. Peru’s illegal mining exports reached $1.8 billion in 2011, exceeding even drug trafficking profits, which accounted for $1.2 billion, said local consultancy firm Macroconsult.
According to Peru’s ministry of environment, the activity has destroyed 18,000 hectares of the Amazon so far, mainly due to the use of mercury, a by-product of artisanal gold mining. There are 5,377 hectares [13,287 acres] of forest that have been converted into ponds of water.
“In other words, the tropical forests are not going to return; they will be gone for several generations.”
~ Luis Fernández, Executive Director of Wake Forest University’s Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation
Another example can be found in the US. According to reports from the EPA, mining in the western United States has contaminated stream reaches in the headwaters of more than 40 percent of the watersheds in the West. The EPA is spending $30,000 per day to treat contaminated mine drainage at the Summitville Mine in Colorado, costing an estimated $170 million to clean up. Remediation of the half-million abandoned mines in 32 states may cost up to $35 billion or more.
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining are the world’s largest source of mercury pollution.
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining account for 38% of total emissions, surpassing well-known sources such as coal-fired power plants and waste incineration. In the environment, microbes can transform mercury into a more potent form known as methylmercury.
Methylmercury can be taken up by bacteria, plankton, and other microorganisms that are then consumed by fish and build up to dangerous concentrations in animals higher on the food chain. This is where we say stop!!!! Enough already!
What we can do…
This is the question we are all left with once we are made aware of some of the big issues that exist, not only in the gold mining industry but within all raw material mining sites across the globe. The ways we can help vary, but we can start by looking around and being aware of where consumer interest lies.
What we can do is look to find good, sustainable sources to buy our jewelry from and support mindful companies and their efforts to make a change in the industry.
We can also be resourceful in how we spend our money. Many companies look to use recycled gold, salvaged from post-consumer products, waste metal, scrap metal, and other sources. We can shift our fashion standards and our spending habits and make a big difference.
One company is currently selling gold jewellery from sustainable sources. Johanna María Mejía Sanchez, owner, and founder of Amelena.com is a boutique jewellery manufacturer that sources all gold directly from the mine. This allows her company to guarantee the sustainable practices that make a difference are actually implemented.
One of the best things we can do is vote with our money to change the things we need to change. On her website, Johanna states:
“In our lives, we are always confronted with making decisions. Sometimes we make the right one, sometimes not. To make the world a better, cleaner, and fairer place, every consumer has the power to make a choice in purchasing the right product. I believe in a chain of love. Beyond the transparency and ethics, behind the supply chain of Amalena, each person and resource involved in the production of our jewellery is treated with honour and respect. Our gold is mined responsibly with tenacity and passion. Our artisans not only put work, effort, and commitment in the jewellery -they put their passion into it. From the mines to each beautiful piece, we create a chain of love… and we invite everyone to be a part of it.”
This is what we’re talking about!!
What else can we do?
The next big thing being adopted by banks and businesses all across the world is crypto and blockchain. At The Miner Network, we have created a way to use blockchain to help clean up the artisanal gold mining sector one mine site at a time. MINER is a resource-based crypto-token that not only tokenises the service of gold mining, letting you take part in the proceeds but also ensures that mining operations are held to a best-in-class environmental standard.
All mines in The Miner Network adhere to the Miner Pledge, a detailed set of rules and best practices that create one of the most progressive and effective protocols for reducing and even reversing the huge cost that mining imposes on the environment.
If you want to get involved, help us make a big impact, and change the future of mining, you can find out more by clicking here.
Each Miner token represents one averaged minute of mining service performed by an employee of our active gold mines. When tokens are redeemed for mining labor, the resulting physical gold can be delivered to your home or business. The tokens can also be exchanged for Ether or Bitcoin within our network.
The Miner Pledge
For humanity to clean up the dirtiest business on earth (gold and mineral mining), the concerted efforts of many will be required. As a simple yet important start, The Miner Network chooses to hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical mining practices. In doing so, we hope to lead by example. We invite mining companies across the globe to join us in the Miner Pledge. We insist that all Miner Network mines (whose production we tokenise) adhere to the following best practices:
- The highest North American environmental standards, regardless of global location.
- Full legal compliance with all mining permits.
- Full adherence to registered mining plans.
- Zero cyanide contamination of the environment.
- Zero mercury contamination of the environment.
- Zero chemical contamination of the environment.
- Mercury-free sorting.
- Zero contaminated wastewater discharge into waterways.
- Our mining operations recycle the water they use, rather than discharging it.
- If we discharge water at all, we filter it to purify it before discharging it.
- Advanced exploration technologies to prevent unnecessary ground disruption.
- As a technology company as well as a mining company, we develop, acquire, and utilise hi-tech solutions for exploration, mining, and refining that increase efficiencies while reducing environmental impact.
- Many mining operations dig multiple locations before finding the deposit, unnecessarily disrupting the wilderness. We dig once.
- Full site reclamation.
- Abandoned mining operations have left derelict equipment, trash, and brownfields throughout the wilderness all over the planet. At our mine sites, we remove such debris and contaminants left by previous mining operations to leave the region clean and safe.
- We re-establish the natural topography and waterways.
- We dispose of any contaminants or pollution.
- Our goal is to assist nature to restore each mine site to its natural state within 5-7 years.
- The highest North American labor standards, regardless of global location.
- Safe working conditions.
- Zero cyanide exposure to employees.
- Zero mercury exposure to employees.
- Fair, livable wages.
- Paid vacation.
- Scheduled leave.
- Year-end bonuses – employees share in the yield.
- Clean, decent housing with amenities.
- Upgraded camps with full sanitation.
- Chef on staff. All meals provided.
- High-quality internet connection to allow workers to communicate long distances.
Additionally, 100 percent of profits from Miner are pledged to fund and support two not-for-profit organisations: The Miner Network and Origin Trust Foundation.
More info can be found at theminernetwork.org.