Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gold Mining and Miners’ Safety

Miners are facing many hazards everyday that may cost them their lives or making them disable. According to the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration, 70,569 miners were injured and 305 miners died between 2000 and 2009 in United States only. Therefore, mining is considered one of the most dangerous jobs. When we talk about the danger that miners are facing everyday, the first thing we think about is minamata disease that threats miners’ lives since they are exposed to a large amount of mercury that come from mines.

Minamata disease is caused by ingestion of a large amount of methylmereury which is a form of mercury that is highly toxic. According to Tsurumi (1987) some of the symptoms of minamata disease are “sensory disturbance in the distal parts of the extremities, followed by ataxia, disequilibrium, bilateral concentric constriction of the visual fields, impairment of gait and speech, muscle weakness, tremor, abnormal eye movement, and hearing impairment. Mental disorder and disturbances of taste and smell arc also present occasion ally.” In addition, it causes pathological changes in the nervous system and a swollen brain.

Furthermore, a study was conducted in China to show the effect of mercury vapor exposure on miners. The scientists measure hand tremor in 27 miners, whom are mercury-exposed, and 52 unexposed villagers. They found that “the tremor intensities in dominant and non-dominant hands were significantly larger in the exposed workers than in the unexposed subjects, even when controlling for age, height, and drinking and smoking status. Especially, the frequency-specific tremor intensities at 1–6 Hz for dominant hand and 10–14 Hz for both hands were larger in former” (Iwata et al., 2006).

Knowing about minamata disease, its symptoms, and how it threats miners’ lives would make you think more when you decide to buy gold next time. When you go to a jewelry store to buy a gold ring next time, you need to ask yourself first what worth more wearing a ring for a couple of times, or saving miners’ lives?

By Fares Alshaiddi


U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration. (2010). Safety Statistics.

Tsurumi, K. (1987). New Lives: Some Case Studies in Minamata.
 Retrieved from ERIC database.

Iwata, T., Sakamoto, M., Feng, X., Yoshida, M., Liu, X.-J., Dakeishi,
 M., Li, P., ... Murata, K. (January 01, 2007). Effects of mercury vapor exposure on neuromotor function in Chinese miners and smelters. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 80, 5, 381-387.

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