Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gold Mining - Risking Lives

Not only is gold mining dangerous to the environment by polluting our air and water, but people fail to recognize how dangerous this process is to the individual miners themselves. Besides the fact that these workers can develop hearing loss, lung diseases, mercury poisoning, just to name a few, they also face accidental deaths. Due to decades of mining, the easy pickings are long gone, which means miners have to travel miles down into the earth to search for gold.  By taking cage-like elevators deep into the untouched ore, sometimes taking over an hour, miners are susceptible to all kinds of dangers.
Chile, the world’s leading producer of copper and also a major producer of gold has a lot of media attention at the moment for a severe mining accident that happened August 5th of this year.  After a rock collapse, 33 men have been trapped about 3 miles underground for over 60 days with little air, water, food and medical attention. With little space and little morale, these men are suffering from more than cabin fever. Even if they had more food available to them, they are cautioned not to eat more than a couple mouthfuls of tuna and a drink or two of milk a day in order to fit out the small escape shaft that is still being drilled. While this is a record breaking accident, with the longest amount of time miners have survived trapped underground, these men are, and will continue to suffer medical and mentally probably for the rest of their lives. The incident in Chile is not the first and sadly, will not be the last time miners fear for their lives underground. Luckily, so far this accident has not caused any deaths, but no one is in the clear just yet.

Unfortunately, not every accident is so lucky. In South Africa there have been 96 accidental mining incidents since the beginning of 2010. While that is 26% less than this time 2009, that doesn’t make up for the lost lives. I’m sure the family members and loved ones of those killed do not care about this 26%. Regardless of the lowered percentage, this is still 2 deaths a week, which is 2 too many.
August 6th, an underground electrical fire occurred in an eastern China gold mine killed 16 people and sent 39 more to the hospital. Turns out, china actually has the worst mining safety record in the world, with 2,631 deaths last year. That is 7 deaths a day! While most of those deaths are from coal mining, these accidents still occur underground. If the demand for gold reaches that of the demand of coal, just think of how many more deaths will be added to this number.
Even though I have only briefly discussed three different areas, accidents alike are happening all over the world. Some with a couple fatalities, some with hundreds.  So next time you think you have to have those gold earrings for Christmas, stop and think about those who have risked and lost their lives to produce this rare material for you. Think about the families who are suffering and grieving the losses of their loved ones from unfortunate events that could be prevented by using gold alternatives.
Stacy Allen

1 comment:

  1. Can I also suggest buying jewellery from ethical or fair trade jewellers who ensure health & safety of miners as well as no child or forced labour etc; also who ensure the mining is carried out with strict environmental stewardship.