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

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