Is gold mining toxic?

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining is a vital source of income, but it is also very dangerous because miners use toxic mercury to separate gold from ore. Mercury is a shiny liquid metal that attacks the nervous system. Exposure can cause lifelong disability and is particularly harmful to children. 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. Producing gold just for one wedding ring generates 20 tons of waste.

Dirty gold mining has devastated landscapes, polluted water supplies and contributed to the destruction of vital ecosystems. Cyanide, mercury and other toxic substances are regularly released into the environment due to the extraction of dirty gold. While the list of retailers aligned in their opposition to dirty gold continues to grow, most gold is still quite dirty. Most of the world's gold is extracted from open pit mines, where huge volumes of land are extracted and processed for trace elements.

Earthworks estimates that, to produce enough raw gold to make a single ring, 20 tons of rock and soil are extracted and discarded. Much of this waste contains mercury and cyanide, which are used to extract gold from rock. The resulting erosion clogs streams and rivers and can eventually contaminate marine ecosystems that lie deep below the mine. Exposing the depths of the earth to air and water also causes chemical reactions that produce sulfuric acid, which can seep into drainage systems.

Air quality is also compromised by gold mining, which releases hundreds of tons of elemental mercury into the air every year. Zinc is also found in gold ore deposits in the form of sphalerite (ZnS), which is often associated with galena. To separate gold (Au) from mineral-containing rock, mercury mixes with minerals extracted from soil or stream beds to form an amalgam. Many of these are small sites, and in total, there are approximately 500,000 missing metal mines in 32 western states that the EPA plans to clear.

While the EPA strives to remediate and restore nearly countless mines in the United States, and as activists work to stop the wave of demand in the gold industry, efforts are being made to develop more open pit mines. It is found in minerals that contain gold as an isometric trace element in sphalerite and its concentration depends on the concentration of sphalerite in the mineral deposit. The commitment was launched in 2004 by the environmental group Earthworks, which called on retail companies not to transport gold produced through mining practices that are destructive to the environment and society. Tailings are a mixture of finely ground rock that remains after the recovery of the precious mineral and water used in processing.

Environmental pollution from gold mines is mainly associated with the release of harmful elements from tailings and other waste from mines. These bacteria help the enrichment of metals in the water of gold minerals and mines, in a solubilization process called biolealization. Due to the use of dirty practices, such as open pit mining and cyanide heap leaching, mining companies generate about 20 tons of toxic waste for every 0.333-ounce gold ring. Recently, gold mining has surpassed the burning of coal as the world's main source of mercury pollution in the air, releasing up to 1,000 tons of potent cerebral and reproductive poison into the atmosphere annually.

The interaction between metals is an important factor that must be considered as a result of the antagonistic and synergistic interactions of metals, due to their competition for the same bonding sites, which determines their absorption in contaminated environments, such as mine tailings. Several studies also investigated bacterial diversity in gold mines using techniques independent of culture based on the identification of the bacterial 16srRNA gene. Payal Sampat, director of Earthworks' No Dirty Gold campaign, wants consumers to understand the backstory of the gold industry. Mercury is the product of hundreds of illegal small-scale gold mines and is leaving its poisonous mark on forest fauna.

Gold mine tailings are characterized by poor physical properties, such as poor aggregation, high hydraulic conductivity, fine texture and very limited cohesion capacity. . .