Gold is a precious metal used around the world in jewelry, electronics and even dentistry. Extraction of gold requires mining for it beneath the Earth's surface. Mining for gold has some negative effects, including erosion, the use of cyanide, loss of biodiversity and disruption of indigenous communities.
Erosion is when solid deposits are weathered over a period of time and moved from their natural spot to a new destination. Erosion occurs naturally in the wild, but can also occur as a negative effect of gold mining. Excessive amounts of gold mining can wash away soil into nearby rivers, as well as strip an area of soil altogether. Serious erosion can also strip an area of its ability to support agriculture.
The chemical cyanide is used in the extraction of gold from ore. It is very toxic to humans and animals. When the chemical enters the body, it suppresses the central nervous system causing respiratory failure and death. The cyanide used in gold mining can get into the soil, and through the process of erosion can make its way into lakes and streams. This in turn can pollute local water supplies.
Loss of Biodiversity
In the gold mining process, land must be cleared for mining. Clear-cutting trees disrupts local ecosystems, causing animals to flee the area or perish. Also, when the chemicals used in gold mining make their way into the soil and the water, they disrupt the local wildlife by poisoning their sources of food and water. It is not unusual in gold mining for toxic chemicals to be simply dumped into local ponds.
In many remote parts of the world, indigenous communities still exist and gold mining may disrupt their lives. Large gold mining companies will often secure land deals from the local governments, and in this process eject, often violently, the local indigenous population. Governments in these regions have been known to kill indigenous people for refusing to leave areas that have been sold to gold mining companies.
- "National Geographic"; The Real Price of Gold; Brook Larmer; 2009
- "Mining, the Environment and Indigenous Development Conflicts"; Saleem H. Ali; 2003
- Environmental and Health Effects of Cyanide
- Deforestation, Gold Mining, Soil Erosion Accelerate Water Pollution at Confluence
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