5 thoughts on “Gold infographic part 2: Mining and supply”

  1. Although I have never been directly involved in gold mining, I was asked to work on an environmental impact assessment for a gold mine in Azebaijan in 2009. It was then that I first began to learn about the heap leaching process; and the potential for water to be lost from the process (i.e. to pollute the underlying aquifer).

    As if this were not bad enough, the incredible ability of the heap leaching process to recover gold from very low grade ores has encouraged gold mining companies to dig absolutely enormous holes in the ground to recover tiny amounts of gold. In other words it has led to far more habitat destruction than would have been the case otherwise.

    The whole thing leaves me feeling very guilty about being a geologist, because geologists seem to be involved in one thing only – environmental destruction. Sadly,even if we run out of gold, our money-fetishised leaders will just move on to something else – probably platinum.

    1. Yeah, any chemical process with cyanide in it probably cannot be very healthy for the environment, especially if it is done on a large scale. Unfortunately, you can be sure that people will hunt for more and more remote ores as the gold price rises. Economics is king (and it runs a merciless dictatorship).

      Well, if our leaders would just see gold as money again, I would certainly be very happy about that. If more emphasis goes to platinum I (as a South African) would be even happier. But platinum has no monetary history and its price will probably always be determined by industrial demand (together with bloody strikes in South Africa). An economic collapse or even just a slow unraveling of our fiat currency economy will therefore boost gold and sink platinum.

      1. If platinum will never usurp it, that makes the allure of gold seem even more arbitrary. Collapse: How Civilisations Chose to Fail or Survive, the book by mining consultant and environmentalist (so it is possible to be both!) Jared Diamond, has an interesting chapter on Montana (USA), in which he discusses – amongst many other things – the impacts of gold mining…

  2. Very interesting infographic. Looking forward to examining the mining/jewlery sector. Will be sure to look into the resources suggested above. But, off-hand, are there any quick tips/advice for making this industry more environmentally sound?

    1. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any processes that can offer an economically viable alternative to heap leaching. And yes, as the gold price rises, environmental impacts will worsen as mining companies begin extracting progressively lower grade ores.

      There are some interesting ideas out there like “gold-mining bacteria”, but for the time being, I think the only things that can be done is to ensure that there are no large cyanide leaks or other irresponsible practices at any stage within the lengthy gold mining process.

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