Gold Mining

Lithosphere

Gold

Gold, a finite metal resource, is one of the world's most valuable natural resources today. It's consumption has continued to stay in high demand and its value has continued to increase. However, if this increase is to continue for future generations, the production and extraction of gold will have to be developed in a sustainable manner.


Characteristics and Usages of Gold


Shiny
  • Used for jewelry
Durable
  • Used in dentistry to make the crowns for teeth
Malleable and Ductile
  • Used used in fine wires and to produce sheets of gold
Good Conductor
  • Used in transistors, computer circuits, and telephone exchanges
Heat Ray Reflector
  • Used in space suits and in vehicles
  • Used in the outer coating of artificial satellites
Valuable
  • Global financial systems use gold reserves to measure the value of currency

Other uses of gold include:

Gold Mining

Three Main Techniques for Gold Mining:


Impact of Gold Mining

Environmental Impact

Resource Consumption

  • Requires large amounts of electricity and water
Poisoned Water
  • Acid and disposal of toxic waste from gold processing can reach water systems and harm animals, plants, and humans relying on that water for drinking

Solid Waste

  • In the open pit mining process, large amounts of soil and rock is displaced to access the gold reserves and as a result, solid waste is left behind
Greenhouse Emmissions and Air Pollution
  • Dust and harmful gases (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide) cause air pollution
Threaten Natural Areas
  • Mining occurs on protected areas and threaten biodiversity in these areas

Social Impact

Increased Input Costs

  • The cost of extracting gold is increasing

Gold Resources

  • Decrease of gold resources (due to increased production- See "How Much Gold Gets Mined Per Year, Worldwide" image) in countries such as Canada, United States, and South Africa and increase of gold resources in other countries such as Australia will increase the price of gold as there will be less supply

Sustainable Development of Gold Mining

The Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) Project

The global mining indsutry created MMSD to examine the issues for sustainability in mining and it states that the whole mining sector should contribute to sustainable development rather than individual mines.


Rehabilitate Old Mine Sites

Old gold mining sites should be rehabilitated to achieve the following goals:

  • Ensure that the site is safe and stable
  • Pemove pollutants contaminating the site
  • Restore biodiversity that was there before gold mining started
  • Restore waterways to what they were before gold mining (Land contouring can restore drainage)

Corporate Social Responsibility

Gold mining companies are taking the initiative to protect the environment in which they extract gold from. For example, some CSR practices New Gold Inc. is implementing include:

  • Follow waste management principle: reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, and dispose
  • Rehabilitation of land that was mined is being returned
  • 85% of water pumped is recycled

Recycled Gold

Gold is durable and hard wearing meaning it can be recycled and reused. Recycled gold supports 23% of the global annual gold demand and it has risen to 34%-39% during the last years.


Government Intervention

Government regulators should also focus on how companies mine a particular deposit as well as the safety and environmental aspects of gold mining by attaining the proper technical expertise in the government.


Towards Sustainable Mining

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) began a program called "Towards Sustainable Mining" which encourages mining companies to develop a social and environmental conscience to recycle, minimize environmental impacts, and rehabilitate abandoned mines.


Public Stand

If the general public feels as if a gold mining project will cause extreme harm to the natural environmental and their health, they can lobby against the mining company such as citizens of Chile did:

Sustainable Business Podcast: Responsible Mining:

Sustainable Business

Sustainable Business podcast: responsible mining by Sustainable Business
Sustainable development for mining gold or any other natural resource is necessary for the use of future generations and for the protection of the earth. Therefore, we should handle all the natural resources that that earth provides with care