Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Haber Inc.

As we know, the most widely used and one of the simplest methods for obtaining gold relies on mercury to extract it from the ore.  The problem is that mercury is a very toxic and poisoning substance that affects the miner’s health as well as the environment.  Unfortunately, in third world countries if there is a chance to mine for gold, the dangers and risks are disregarded due to economic struggle.  Because of lack of resources and/or information, the miners have to deal with what surrounds them even if that means risking their family’s health as well as their own.  Luckily there are companies like Haber Inc. who have come up with ways to make life better and safer for these mining communities and countries.
Haber Inc. is a publicly-held scientific research and development company that controls a number of innovative technologies within the areas of separation science, extractive metallurgy and medical diagnostics.  Haber Inc. is responsible for establishing and executing several earth friendly gold extraction programs.
Haber Inc. has developed the HGP (Haber Gold Process) which is an environmentally friendly and highly efficient alternative method for gold extraction and recovery.  HGP is relatively simple, highly efficient, doesn’t rely on mercury, cyanide or other toxins, therefore it doesn’t endanger the health of miners or further destroy the environment. Because of the high efficiency rate, Haber is also able to pay higher wages to their miners.
Haber Inc. has also developed a program called the Strategic Abatement of Mercury and Poverty (STAMP) which works to provide a safe work environment, convert sites to farm land or forestry after the gold is depleted from an area, and creates new employment opportunities plus more, all while still making a profit for the stakeholders.  
By using STAMP along with HGP, 12-15 million miners’ lives could potentially be benefited.  After reviewing Haber Inc.’s website it looks as though the benefits outweigh the difficulties for people and the environment.
For more information on Haber Inc., STAMP and HGP, visit http://habercorp.com/
Stacy Allen

Conscious Consumerism

As the holiday season swings into full gear I am already sick of the advertisements. Two of the most common products I see advertisements for this time of year are cars and jewelry. There is a common theme and that is, buy this product and make someone happy, don’t and risk disappointing them.
My husband’s family introduced me to a new way of gift giving. They tend to practice conscious consuming. Presents that have been given to me in the past include homemade candles, fair trade coffee and olive oil, homemade cookies and candies and, my personal favorite, livestock donated to a family in need in my name through Heifer International http://www.heifer.org/
When I think about my morals and what I consider unethical the following come readily to mind: environmental degradation and human rights violations. Questions that I may ask myself before making a purchase include, “Is this item made in line with my morals/ values?” “Am I supporting the local economy?” “Are the people who produced this item treated and compensated fairly?” “Is this product built to last?”
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most common advertisements this time of year is for jewelry. Many people like to buy jewelry for a loved one; many people like to receive jewelry as well. Most of us have heard of conflict diamonds. Conflict diamonds are defined as diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity, usually in Africa where around two-thirds of the world's diamonds are produced (wikipedia).
As a consumer I tend to avoid diamonds, opting instead for simple gold. Recently some disturbing facts about gold production have come to my attention. Here are a couple: One 18 karat gold ring produces 20 tons of polluted mining waste (ore and waste rock). “Few jewelers can tell you where the gold in their products originated. As a result, it's currently impossible to know if the gold we buy comes from a mine that dumps toxic waste in rivers, violates workers' rights, digs up wilderness areas, or evicts communities under the threat of violence.” For more information on the negative effects and implications of producing gold jewelry visit http://www.newdream.org/marketplace/worldwatch_gold.html
If jewelry is on your gift list you may want to look into buying fair trade jewelry. “Every piece of jewelry tells a story. Gold and diamonds are often produced at the expense of the earth and workers' rights and safety. Choose fair trade jewelry that provides a decent living to talented artisans, or gold and gems mined in a socially and ecologically responsible manner.” (http://www.newdream.org/marketplace/jewelry.php
To find out more about what exactly constitutes fair trade go to http://www.newdream.org/marketplace/fair_trade.php
. . ). To find jewelry companies that work to support fair trade practices follow the above link.. While there you can click on any number of categories such as pet products, groceries or back to school. You can use this site to find fair trade jewelry, chocolate, pet food, apparel companies, etc.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Negative Environmental Impacts of Gold Refining

Currently large-scale gold mining and refining has a wide range of damaging environmental effects. 'Green gold' is refined using a revolutionary new process that mitigates many of these negative environmental effects. The following blog discussion will outline the negative environmental effects of gold mining and refining: The severe problems that 'green gold' can reduce or eliminate. Gold is usually mined in large open-pit mines. Open-pit mines are simply large holes in the ground rather than from tunnels in what we commonly think of as a mine. In an open-pit a deep pit is dug as layers of earth are scrapped away. These pits can alter the flow of rivers, disrupt underwater aquifers and water sources and create noise pollution while releasing dust and particulate matter into the atmosphere. It can also require roads, buildings and even whole towns be relocated. It also releases sulfuric acid, arsenic and copper, that can contaminate the water supply. (“Environmental impact of mining in the rainforest”, http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0808.htm.)
The ore that is removed from the open-pit is then 'roasted' – burned at very high temperatures. This process consumes a great deal of energy and releases many harmful compounds into the atmosphere. This process releases mercury into the atmosphere a very bad negative effect for the environment. (Rastogi, 2010) Next, the roasted material is doused with cyanide, another chemical that is damaging to the environment. This dousing process extracts the gold. However, the waste that results, known as tailings, is contaminated with many chemicals and very dangerous for the environment. According to The Washington Post, “Gold tailing ponds and piles are chock-full of contaminants such as arsenic, antimony, residual cyanide and mercury, and so must be carefully managed to avoid generating runoff or coming into contact with wildlife.” Clearly, gold mining and refining techniques are very bad for the environment. This is the problem that 'green gold' offers a solution to.(Rastogi, 2010) 

By Abdullah Alkhaldi 


“Environmental impact of mining in the rainforest”. Mongabay. http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0808.htm.

Rastogi, Nina Shen.  (September 21, 2010).“Production of gold has many negative environmental effects”. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/20/AR2010092004730.html.

Gold Mining and Children

Ever imagined why your gold jewelry is so costly? 

It is not just due to the shipping, the mining and the retailer’s cost as you perhaps imagined, you are also paying for the lives of innocent children in the mining villages of developing countries. 

In northern Nigeria, poisoning from illegal gold mining has killed 400 children since March. Playgrounds of these Nigerian children were filled with lead, a chemical that can be poisonous with too much exposure causing irreversible damage to the kidneys, nervous system and the reproductive system. Children in these mining villages, play barefoot, inhale the dust and drink the contaminated water. Such toxin exposure is acute in children as their bodies are still under development compared to adults. Especially in children less than five years of age, over exposure of lead can lead to convulsions, which is uncontrollable contractions of muscles that can be fatal. 

Think twice, research and question; Help save our future! 

Green Gold?

The Bingham Canyon open-pit mine is the biggest hole dug by man anywhere in the world - about 2 1/2 miles long and nearly a mile deep, according to its owner, Kennecott Utah Copper. Miners have been digging copper, silver, and gold out of Bingham Canyon, just outside Salt Lake City, since 1906. These days huge trucks that cost up to $3 million each work around the clock, hauling about 450,000 tons of dirt out of the earth each day. More than 99% is waste. But by expending vast amounts of energy - the mine operates its own coal-fired power plant - Kennecott is able to extract an average of about 795 tons of copper, 12,000 troy ounces of silver, and 1,400 ounces of gold a day.
It's the gold that Pam Mortensen has come here to see. Mortensen, 52, is in charge of buying fine jewelry for Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500). And recently she has moved the world's largest retailer to the forefront of a loose alliance of businesses and environmental groups that have set out to clean up gold mining, one of the world's dirtiest industries.
No one is more surprised by this development than Mortensen, who grew up in Wal-Mart's hometown, Bentonville, Ark. When I ask her what she knew about mining before the company got onto its much-publicized sustainability kick a few years ago, she holds up her thumb and her forefinger to make a zero. "We were just buying pretty stuff from our suppliers," she says.
Now she has bigger things in mind. Wal-Mart is pushing miners to adopt strict environmental and social standards, verified by independent third parties. Its allies in this campaign include Tiffany & Co. (TIF) and the Richline Group, the world's biggest manufacturer of gold jewelry and a unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, Fortune 500). The retail giant is also working with a good-cop, bad-cop duo of environmental groups based in Washington, D.C. Business-friendly Conservation International consults, for a fee, with both Wal-Mart and mining companies. And Earthworks, a watchdog group, is behind a hard-hitting five-year-old media and Internet campaign called "No Dirty Gold." "The more you know, the less gold glows," its commercials say.
That kind of talk unnerves jewelers and upsets the mining industry. But facts are facts. Mining enough gold to make a typical 18-carat wedding ring leaves behind 20 tons of waste. In the U.S., metal mining creates nearly 30% of all the toxic releases measured annually by the EPA, more than any other single industry. And in poor countries, where regulation is lax, the picture gets really ugly. Gold mines and their waste have poisoned rivers in Guyana, destroyed rain-forest land in Papua New Guinea, and forced the evacuation of villages in the Philippines. In West Africa, thousands of children dig for gold under harsh conditions. According to the UN, a fifth of the world's supply is scratched out of the ground by desperately poor miners working for subsistence-level wages.

By: Ahmed Al Shaye

WORLD: Firms Are in Talks to Turn Gold Mining `Green'

The world's gold mining companies have started talks with social and environmental activists on a "green" code for an industry that has for decades been one of their prime targets.

The two sides have fiercely opposed each other, with mining companies saying they are injecting money into relatively poor communities where unemployment is high and welfare is low.

In turn, environmentalists say miners are doing this by adhering to minimal environmental standards, which has resulted in some cases in the pollution of local water supplies.

Activists also claim that mining companies reinvest only a tiny amount of the money they make from exploiting the resource.

"We are keen to work with the nongovernment organizations to find a solution to these issues, and if we come up with an agreement it is going to be better for everybody," said Pierre Lassonde, the president of Newmont Mining Corp., the world's second-largest gold producer. Lassonde, 59, made his comments at the London Bullion Market Assn. conference here.

"We will have gold that is certified by the NGOs, and they will be happy that we are working to standards that they have helped set," he said.

Lassonde said gold mining companies and nongovernmental organizations had a first meeting on the prospect of environmentally conscious, or green, gold mining last month in Vancouver, Canada.

The mining industry is conducting the talks through the International Council for Mining and Metals, an industry group.

Lassonde said the goal was to have each gold mine certified if it adhered to the standards set through talks between the nongovernmental organizations and the miners.

This in turn could be used by the jewelry sector to market gold that came from environmentally friendly mines. Newmont has been the subject of protests by environmentalists, especially at its gold mine in Indonesia.

Lassonde said similar agreements had been achieved in the forestry and fishing industries. In the mining sector, diamond miners have worked with organizations on "conflict diamonds." Any agreement between gold miners and the organizations, however, will take years to achieve.

"I can't see any agreement for at least two or three years," Lassonde said. "There are a lot of issues to discuss, and we are far apart with some people on certain matters."

Environmentalists are concerned about the use of mercury in alluvial gold mining, which represents about 5% of annual gold output and is concentrated mainly in Latin America, where there are cases of mercury poisoning in rivers.

Cyanide is another contentious issue for organizations, as the chemical is widely used by the industry to strip gold from rock. Cyanide also pollutes local water tables.

By: Ahmed Al Shaye

Now, mine green gold without mercury!

Wildcat mining in countries like Brazil and Peru have been a big menace for the governments there because of the risk involved in it.

Wildcat mining is resorted by people who want to explore gold from the riverbeds like Amazon and other forest areas. They are not professional miners but want to mine gold from known sources. In normal case, companies, which mine gold, use cyanide to extract gold from the slush. But, small-scale miners especially the wildcat miners use mercury in the process.

The biggest problem with both cyanide and mercury is that they pollute the environment and cause a lot of damage.

However, there is help now. After years of research to avoid mercury and cyanide use in gold, a Peruvian engineer has come up with something which can substantially reduce use of mercury, which has been polluting the Amazon river for years, in gold mining.

In fact, what his machine produces is ethical gold, because it’s not using mercury. Again, small scale mining is a big employer, and the machine’s cost of operation is very cheap.

The patented technique allows for the environmentally friendly recovery of gold and other precious metals on a large scale.

Numerous refractory gold deposits have not reached commercial production due to low gold recoveries and the potential environmental damage that can be caused by the disposal of arsenic in tailings.

Wildcatters produce about 20% of gold in Peru — people who mine, usually without formal permits, using picks and dredges.

The high concentration of gold produced by the device allows for direct melting of the precious metal.

Peru’s government has long struggled with curbing some 300,000 wildcat miners and with reducing pollution in the Amazon basin.

The machine would produce up to 95% of the gold obtained by using mercury by wildcat miners, who often put their own health at risk by exposing themselves to the toxic metal.

Villachica runs Smallvill, a Peruvian firm that focuses on green technology and that built a plant to clean waste water of the mining company Volcan.

By: Ahmed Al Shaye

Cartier Taps Green Mining Firm for Responsibly Sourced Gold

One big setback this week: A government and industry initiative set up to stop the flow of so-called conflict diamonds, known as the Kimberly Process, failed to suspend Zimbabwe even after its own investigators had found that the Zimbabwean military had organized smuggling of diamonds and assaulted other miners. According to The New York Times:
Human rights campaigners and nongovernmental organizations immediately denounced the decision, saying that the Kimberley Process had shown it was incapable of stopping gross abuses and the flouting of international standards.
Kimberly Process officials said they want to give the government a chance to come into compliance. We’ll see, but know that, for now, diamonds certified as conflict-free may be helping to finance human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

On a more encouraging note, luxury jeweler and watch-maker Cartier is the latest retailer to look for more responsible ways to source its gold. The French-based firm recently signed an agreement to buy gold from an innovative Italian gold-mining venture based in Honduras. Globalization is a fact of life in the gold biz.

The Honduran mining venture, called Eurocantera, (whose work is illustrated in the photo to the right) combines a modern alluvial gold mine -- meaning that the gold is found in water, close to the surface, requiring no blasting into rock -- with small-scale miners who use traditional methods of panning gold. This venture is noteworthy because it supports artisanal miners in a poor country, not only by providing them with decent wages, but by offering education in finance and technology, a free health clinic and road building that is needed to move gold to market but will provide other benefits as well to isolated villages. Put simply, it’s a well-rounded approach.

“Cartier set out to answer the question, what can we do with small-scale miners to help them become more economically and environmentally sustainable,” says Assheton Carter, head of corporate engagement for PACT, a Washington-based nonprofit that works to empower communities in poor countries to improve people’s lives. (PACT manages grants for U.S. AID, Sweden and Norway, among others, and it advised Cartier) Carter is a mining expert who formerly worked for Conservation International and guided Wal-Mart’s jewelry and mining efforts.
Cartier is not a big player in gold, buying less than 0.5 percent of the gold used in the global jewelry market. So, as Pamela Caillens, director of corporate responsibility at Cartier, explained to me by email, the company initially worked with other like-minded firms to former a group called the Responsible Jewelry Council back in 2005. This group, which includes retailers, refiners, diamond cutters, manufacturers and miners, will set global standards and eventually a certification process. Caillens says: “We intend for all our gold supply to meet the RJC standard.”

At the same time, Cartier sought out a source for gold that it could feel really good about and settled on a partnership with an Italian family-owned gold mining company called Goldlake. (You can read more about Cartier and Goldlake here on the PACT website.) The Eurocantera mine operated by Goldlake provides only a fraction of Cartier’s gold supply, according to Caillens, but it’s an attempt to showcase the very best practices.

Cartier has agreed to buy gold from Eurocantera for a minimum of three years, paying for its entire production during the first year and promising to spend at least $10 million in years two and three. This kind of commitment enables the mine to set high environmental and social standards, knowing it can count on a steady income stream.

By: Ahmed Al Shaye

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What About The Women?

For people living in the developing world, not only is regular day to day life hard, but when living in a mining community, things can be even more difficult, especially for the women. While the men are out in the mines working, the woman's responsibility is to gather and provide the food and water for their families. But when the food and water are contaminated, the women have to travel considerable distances to find safe resources.  By spending most of their time wandering around in search for nourishing and non-poisoned food and water, they have less time to take care of their other responsibilities and chores.

In many countries, women aren’t allowed to own any land or have any say in community affairs. This gives the men all the power and leaves the women underprivileged. In the most unfortunate circumstances, if a woman’s husband and/or son is killed, the woman will be left with no land, no income, basically nothing.  

Not only do the women have no rights to land, they also rarely have any employment opportunities.  In the developing world, women are usually placed in the fields to farm, but when the farms are torn up so the land can be mined, the women are left jobless. If the women are lucky enough to snag a clerical job within the mining companies they are often sexually harassed and discriminated against by their male coworkers.

It is important not to forget that while mining is usually a “man’s job”, women are often just as affected as men by the harmful consequences.

Stacy Allen

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The lives of those who mine our gold!

Ever imagined the path your luxurious gold jewelry took to reach you?  Unfortunately, it is not a glamorous one!

It is likely that the gold you possess is from Africa.  Ghana especially, is an African nation that earns majority of its foreign exchange from gold.  For poor villagers in Ghana, illegal gold mining has become the main source of living.  And their job safety is at extreme lows with climbing down dark and deep mining pits with no safety gears except for their bare hands and feet, pickaxes, dynamite and mercury.  

Not only is their job security and safety are at risk, the environment their families live is full of poison!  In fact, a study completed by the U.N. has found unsafe levels of mercury in the bodies of villagers including the non-miners.  And, the concentrations of mercury in the fish the villagers consume were found to be three times high compared to the safety levels suggested by the E.P.A.  The level of mercury pollution and the lives of villagers are difficult to save without proper mining equipment and safety gear.

Before your wear that gold jewelry on your skin and enjoy its luxury, research about your gold; question your retailer.  Recycle an old, existing piece of jewelry before you purchase that new gold.  Glitter guild-free!

Got Golden Rules?

Think gold is pure? Think again!

Gold mining has become a huge threat to the environment. When you purchase a gold ring for that special occasion, or simply for luxury, you are contributing to tons of mine waste. In fact, metal mining is the number one toxic polluter in U.S.; it adds massive amounts of mercury and lead to the environment. And, you are encouraging the miners to use Cyanide, which is a poisonous chemical used in gold mining to separate gold from the ore. Nevertheless, gold mining consumes 10% of the world’s energy.

Make sure the gold you are buying meets the Golden Rules!

These are social, human rights, and environmental criteria encouraged by the Earthworks, a non-profit organization. Make sure your gold was not produced at the expense of local communities, workers and the environment!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Green Mining – Real Green?

When it comes to gold mining, the first reacting is that it is a terrible thing towards the environment.  In 2007, a Denver based company name Newmont Mining Co. became the first gold mining company to be listed on Dow Jones Sustainability Index, an index of companies with commitment to environmental concerns and protection.  One would think green mining is a lot safer and environmentally better, but drama and problems still occurred in green mining practices.  Newmont owns Ahafo mine, a gold mine located in the rural region of Ghana.  On October 2009, a cyanide spill at the Ahafo mine destroyed aquatic life and contaminated drinking water.  Ghanian government found that not only Newmont didn’t take precautions, they also failed to report the spill or investigate it.  The Ghanian government decided to fine Newmont $4.9 million for not responding effectively and the spill.  Tension were already heated up before October spill between the mine and local community.  Local residents objected about the mine’s environmental footprint and its impact on the people and surrounding community.  9500 local residents were displaced prior to the mine’s opening back in 2006.  Possible expansion of the mine would displace even more people.  As much as 10,000.  In addition, mine opponents also stated the mine’s security officers have beaten protestors, shot at them and had them arrested.  Although Newmont is attempting a new route to eco friendly mining, like other large modern mining, the Ahafo mine uses open pit mining to extract gold from the Earth.  It uses cyanide to separate out gold from unwanted materials.  Newmont stressed the importance of sustainability and environmental concerns, but they lack the interests of local communities.  Government regulation and policy can play a key point and pressure in companies like Newmont to do a better task at their tasks and taking local communities interests and concerns.  After this incident and the serious fine to Newmont, it should cause Newmont to think thoughtfully about how it can improve their image, goals, and their commitment to the environment, which is to be an eco friendly mining company.

By Xi Zhong