The gold rush also had a serious environmental impact. Rivers became clogged with sediment; forests were devastated to produce wood; biodiversity was compromised and soil was contaminated with chemicals from the mining process. This process releases mercury to the environment in two ways. First, tailings or waste materials can contaminate nearby terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Second, mercury vapor enters the atmosphere and can travel long distances before settling on land and water through rain or small dust particles. Most consumers don't know where the gold in their products comes from or how it's extracted. Gold mining is one of the most destructive industries in the world. It can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, harm workers and destroy pristine environments.
It contaminates water and land with mercury and cyanide, endangering the health of people and ecosystems. The production of gold just for one wedding ring generates 20 tons of waste. The Battle Without worrying about those who were downstream, hydraulic mining advanced at a relentless pace. Mining companies permanently altered California's landscape, drowned its rivers with sediment, and repeatedly buried thousands of acres of low-lying farms.
On a farm, the top of the farm roof barely peeked through the 18 feet of mud it was buried under. Lacking laws to protect their properties, enraged farmers brought the miners, their best customers, to court. The battle for hydraulic mining raged for the next 20 years.