I have a raven-like fascination with shiny objects. My husband knows that the surest way to melt my butter is to present me with a set of shiny gems (no diamonds please!!), preferably set in white gold. Over the years he has punctuated special occasions with gifts of unusual stones set in glittering white gold.
A glittering gold that shines less beautifully now that I know how devastating gold mining practices are for the environment. Did you know that the production of one gold ring creates 20 tons of mine waste? The No Dirty Gold movement is doing its best to promote information on the environmental effects of gold mining. Their slogan “The more you know, the less gold glows” sums up my reaction to the information exactly.
These open pit mines generate huge piles of waste rock. For example, The Bingham Canyon open-pit mine, the biggest hole dug by man anywhere in the world (approx. 2 1/2 miles long and nearly a mile deep), hauls about 450,000 tons of dirt out of the earth each day. More than 99% of that dirt is waste.
However, rock and dirt waste aren’t the real problem here, gold cyanidation is. Gold cyanidation is a technique for extracting gold from low-grade ore by converting the gold to water soluble aurocyanide metallic complex ions. It is the most commonly used process for gold extraction. Of course, there have been toxic spills of the cyanide, causing mass die offs of fish and requiring governments to shut off water supplies to whole villages to prevent poisoning.
The environmental part is just a small part of the story too, there are serious issues effecting women, child labor, and over human rights violations caused by gold mining.
Tiffany’s and Wal-Mart are both trying to get “Green Gold” in their stores by using gold from a single source. However, most of the gold sold to jewelers is co-mingeld from dozens of world-wide sources, so pinpointing where your gold came from is hard to do. Tiffany’s is spearheading an effort to enforce gold mining standards that are environmentally and human friendly. Wal-Mart is doing the same thing. Soon you will be able to purchase “Green Gold” from Walmart in the Love Earth line. Tiffany’s gets all their gold from green sources.
So for me, it’s Tiffany’s or titanium I guess. Turns out Gold doesn’t really glitter as much, when I know everything that went into it. (Or came out of it.) For piles of detail information on Gold mining check out the media materials here. For an excellent summary of the issues regarding gold mining, check out Fortunes Article Green Gold.