Thursday, December 9, 2010

Responsible Small Scale Mining

As has been brought to light in many of these blogs small scale mining operations tend to be exceedingly dangerous to local communities, workers and the environment. Large scale operations, while more regulated, are owned by executives with little ties to the local communities. Some of the ways in which small scale mining operations could become more responsible would be through education campaigns. Such issues as mercury poisoning, proper tunnel building techniques, prevention methods for the breathing of toxic chemicals and dust must be addressed.

According to "The stronger points from all of these initiatives (No single initiative that we examined represented precautionary, comprehensive, best practice standards for all of the aspects of small-scale mining that we considered. Each of the initiatives had points for which it was closer to representing best practice, and points where it was further from best practice), in combination with the precautionary principle and known best practice, could be combined to form a composite of best practice in responsible small-scale gold mining. Such a certification system would include practices such as respecting human rights; obtaining community consent; guaranteeing revenue sharing and transparency; not operating in areas of armed conflict; respecting workers' rights and health and safety standards; not using mercury or other toxic chemicals; and not operating in protected areas, among others. Traceability and third-party verification of compliance would provide further assurance of responsible sourcing."

Child Labor

Many of the small scale gold mining operations in Africa, Asia and South America use child labor. Children are responsible for the same tasks as the adults including: digging, crushing and hauling ore, digging sand and silt from alluvial soil, carrying sacks of mud to sieving and washing sites. Some of the health risks attributed to gold excavation include: exposure to dust and chemicals (especially dangerous in the rapidly developing body of a child), mercury exposure (through the skin, inhalation and the seeping of mercury into the soil and water), and the risk of tunnel collapse (oftentimes proper methods are not known or followed). Communities  may feel that there is no other option but to send their children to work in the mines. "In the worst cases, children are trafficked to mine sites where they are forced to work in absolutely horrendous slavery-like conditions."

In the African countries of Burkina Faso and Niger child labor is exceedingly common and children are engaged in all aspects of the trade. Regular full time work typically begins when a child is between 12 and 14 years of age. Children are paid less than adults but required to perform the same duties. "Estimates have shown that children under 18 may constitute from 30-50% of the labor force. Approximately 70 per cent of the children are under the age of 15, indicating that children start working from a young age."

Some of the countries most known for child labor in gold mining operations include: Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mongolia, Phillipines, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

How are we to know where our gold comes from?
"The No Dirty Gold campaign is calling on retailers to identify and disclose the source of the gold they sell-and to ensure that jewelry, watches, cell phones, computer chips, and other products do not contain gold mined at the expense of communities, workers and the environment. Currently, retailers and consumers do not have an alternative to dirty gold." Go to  and sign the No Dirty Gold Pledge

For more information on Child Labor and gold go to:

For a vivid portrait of life in a South American bush mine visit:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Pollutions is one of the major problems these days, people are seriously considering this because, they predict that if they keep producing and creating pollutions from the factories and other productions, it will cause a main air pollution and create a worse environment, Now About 20% of the world's gold is produced by the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector. This sector is also responsible for the largest releases of mercury to the environment of any sector globally.

Gold is an important part of this production process, and is a major cause of air pollution from mercury. Well, to reduce airborne mercury emissions from these Gold Shops, EPA and the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) have partnered to design a low cost, easily constructible technology called the Gold Shop Mercury Capture System (MCS). The MCS was piloted and tested in Amazonian gold producing regions in Brazil and Peru. And this theory must be created to follow every environmental issue to reduce air pollution, and make the world safer.


While pure gold is yellow in color, colored gold can be developed into various colors. These colors are generally obtained by alloying gold with other elements in various proportions. However each type of colored gold has a combination of some thing Green gold, leaving the copper out of the alloy mixture and just using gold and silver make alloys. It actually appears as a greenish yellow rather than green. Eighteen karat green gold would therefore contain a mix of gold 75% and silver 25%.

Green gold was known as Lydian’s from around 2,900 years ago. They knew it as electrum. The ancient Greeks called it gold or white gold, as opposed to refined gold. The greenish color of green gold is achieved when raising the silver: gold ratio of the alloy. However, Green gold is, however, more malleable than red or yellow gold, but less durable.


Green Gold is an economic development strategy designed to create sustainable development, meaningful jobs, a better environment and a prosperous local economy. Green gold is considering one of the precious metals in the world. Now days, gold are extracted from many mines in the whole globe.

Green gold strategy is to offer opportunity for economic and environmental matters. They plan redeveloped industrial facility into eco-economics for environmental technology companies. These ‘’green business’’, and the people they employ, will be doing significant work for a better future for green gold business. Their goal is to establish the Buffalo area as a recognized leader in solving environmental problems worldwide. In taking on this project, they aim to make Western New York the "Silicon Valley of Green Business."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

No Dirty Gold Campaign…

The No Dirty Gold Campaign was launched in 2004 by two organizations (Earthworks & Oxfam America) to help spread information about bad mining practices and seek out a grassroots way of changing the way gold is produced.  When you begin to think about who really holds the power for change, many people will say politicians and mining companies.  But the real answer is YOU!  The Consumer is one of the largest powers in the market of goods and services.  Along with consumer, retailers hold a power that could help consumers choose cleaner gold.  If retailers chose to fight back and only buy from mining companies who practiced clean mining techniques then those who don’t would be forced to search for another outlet for their product or change their ways (we would hope they change their ways!).  This similar power rests in the consumers hands as well.  Choose to only purchase from those retailers who spend the little extra money to have their products environmentally friends.  Soon those retailers clinging to the dirty gold will only have two options; buy green or close shop. 
The “No Dirty Gold Campaign” is trying to decrease the demand for gold that is not only environmentally harmful but those that also harm communities and workers.  You can join the thousands of conscious consumers out there that made the pledge to end dirty mining practices by visiting The fact that mining damages the environment is one problem that this organizations hopes to tackle.  In many countries outside of the USA, companies have no legal obligation to practices safe mining or combat the devastation that large-scale mining can cause.   According to the site, 75% of the active mines around the world are currently overlapping land that is seen as extremely precious with high conservational value.
Mining also threatens human rights along with the communities that they are a part of.  It has been said that mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and violent suppression is often part of the job.  In many parts of Africa, conspiracies surrounding the disappearance and death of activists, union organizers, polices officials have left many efforts to oppose dirty mining practice on the drawing boards.  Environmental impacts that mining has directly affects those who live and work in the area.  Laws in other countries do not protect those people or give them a choice in the conditions that those mines create.  Many communities around the world are demanding that no mining practices go without their prior consent so they can continue to keep their communities safe.
Here are some sites with this information and more!

~Lindsay Hofer

Friday, December 3, 2010

What exactly is Cyanide… It is not candy!

Today’s “gold rush” is both made up of much less gold and a process which greatly reduces the ability to rush.  Today gold is only being found as a very low concentration in ores, many believe it to typically fall bellow ½ of a percent of the ore it is being extracted from.  At a miniscule amount like that you would think there to be no way to separate the minerals in any timely fashion.  That is where the big, sometimes harmful but many times magnificent, world of chemistry comes into play.  Science has developed chemical called cyanide which in simple terms, dissolves the gold so it can be separated from the ore.  Only when mixed with oxygen (pretty easy to do on earth) is the chemical able to dissolve the gold with a chemical solution only appearing at about .035% of the total liquid applied.  Many other chemicals have been used and tested for the extraction of gold including: chloride, bromide, and thiosulfate. But due to greater health and environmental concerns that these other chemicals cause, cyanide has been by far the most common chemical used in the gold manufacturing since its first use in the late 19th century (
When cyanide enters the environment it has different effects in different elements.  In the gaseous state it is carried through the air at levels that have a leave a very limited concern by government standards.  This cyanide, and those particles which are swept up by wind or washed away in runoff, is not seen as an issue in soil or water.  This is because in soil there are several processes to remove cyanide and in water it has not been shown to build up in fish bodies.  The issue comes in those areas where high concentrations of the chemical are present.  This takes us on a little journey to the one place that most unwanted things are taken, the landfill.  Here the concentrations of the chemicals are so high that organisms that could normally change the cyanide into other chemical forms cannot; the chemical slowly makes its way down into ground water and soil. 
You can breathe in the air which carried the chemical, drink contaminated water, interact with saturated soil, or eat foods containing the pollutant.  It is thought that people who live closer to hazardous waste sites, landfills, and mining camps are more susceptible to contamination. So wait; living next to places where toxic chemicals are used could be harmful?  Well I am sure to many of you this is not anything new to your knowledge.  However, what about those people who work in those plants? The people who are so lucky to have a job in this market that they take the low salaries and bad living conditions just so their families have a warm home.  Who could possibly help these people by just speaking up about the way we process gold? YOU!  We all are aware of the fact that those with large sums of money often time have the resources and power to get their point across and win their battles.  But history has shown that grassroots efforts can change the way this country is run and so I ask you to head over to our website and follow the links to sign the pledge to made “green gold” a reality.

Government Website and toxicological profile for Cyanide:
~Lindsay Hofer

Race for the cure? How about recycle for the cure!

Studies have grown over the past 10 years in the area of nanotechnology with regards to cancer detection and extraction.  What particle is turning up to be a huge proponent of detecting breast cancer? GOLD!  In 2007 scientists at Purdue University told of their use of gold nanoparticals to form Nanorods that use special antibodies to connect with the protein exteriors of cancer cells.  Once the protein and nanorods cling within a blood sample, a light scatter test is performed in which the distinctive way the light scatters gives reference to a specific type of cancer cell.  So in a quick summery of that information, a formation of gold is proving to be useful in the detection of cancer (many kinds).

The particles of gold are so small that it would take “500 of them to span the width of a human hair.”  These types of studies and the use of gold where not new concepts before 2007 and the scientists at Perdue specifically used the rods capable of attaching themselves to three types of breast cancer.  The study also found two different markers that allowed the scientist to see how invasive the cancer was.  It is obvious that if all you needed was a blood test to be done every so often to see if you had breast cancer, that I am almost positive the survival rate for this disease would sky-rocket!  The price for these types of procedures would be drastically reduced and it would help to determine cancer much earlier.  The process is often much less invasive as well.  Only calling for a simple blood sample or two instead of a biopsy and also the equipment is much less expensive. 

Besides being able to detect the cancers earlier, studies are showing that lasers can be used to heat gold nanoparticles in a way that could destroy cancer cells more effectively.  Or many speculate that gold could also be used within drug doses as a type of “delivery” system.  But let’s go back to gold being used to eliminate cancer cells.  Gold has a characteristic that makes it a prime candidate for cancer cell elimination, that trait is its ability to become hot very quickly when radiated with light.  Scientists have discovered that the gold becomes so hot that is produces micro bubbles that are able to reach out to cancer cells near them and eliminate them (process known as the photothermal effect).  As of May 2010 it is said that scientist are have developed a way of creating “supramolecular assemblies” (that can be researched further otherwise this blog would be much too long!).  This all means that they have figured out a way to optimize the delivery of the heated gold to the tumors.

So here could be the reason to better preserve our gold supply!  We are only given a finite supply of minerals and metals (here on earth) and to extract off that could only lead to gold becoming more precious and therefore much more EXPENSIVE! Who knows, a few years from now we all could be retiring our walking shoes and handing over our designer earrings to cure cancer in those that we love.

Here is the online site for the original paper and research available though their publishing. Also the website of the National Cancer Institute in which all of my information was derived from:

Fool's Gold

In an article written for Dollars and Sense magazine, some interesting points about gold mining are pointed out. First, gold is NOT a necessity. We need food and we might even need paper, but we do not need gold. What we do need is to protect our natural resources and our environment for ourselves and for the generations of our families that are to come. It does not make any sense to completely destroy the environment and reduce resources that will produce food in order to mine for gold.

Violence, damage to water and water resources, waste rock damage, negation of indigenous rights, the release of cyanide (used to extract gold from crushed ore) into the ecosystem, mercury emissions, destruction of habitats and biodiversity, and the industrialization of wilderness lands are some of the devastating effects that gold mining has on the environment.

The article also points out that the United States value of a dollar no longer goes off of the gold standard, and therefore, it has “no special value as a commodity, with only 280 tons going to industrial uses per year.” Some governments, however, are continuing to hold on to their reserves. But after governments such as the Canadian and the British sold their reserves, the price of gold plummeted. For the 35,000 tons of bullion gold held in banks around the world, the value has already decreased by 30 percent.

What is the answer to decreasing the value of gold? The article does a good job of presenting the case for governments to sell off their reserves. When the price of gold plummets, illegal mining and destroying the environment will become less profitable. Perhaps this can contribute to a decrease in the harm being done to the environment.

For more information, read the full article at

Posted by Abdullah Alruwaished

Illegal mining threatens forest, biodiversity, natives in French Guiana Europe's largest tropical rainforest invaded by gold miners

Some of the areas of the world are beginning to take action against mining for gold and the damage it is doing to the environment. These miners are moving, then, from those countries to other areas, attempting to illegally mine for gold. This is what is happening to French Guiana. After Brazil and Suriname have taken steps to stop illegal mining, these miners are crossing over to other countries, including French Guiana, which is under the jurisdiction of France. The country has a diverse ecosystem of tropical rainforest, plants, and diverse and numerous mammals, amphibians, birds, and so on.  The article on the damage being done to French Guiana explains how different types of pollution, from mercury emissions to oil and fuel waste, are affecting and can affect the environment in that country.

A major concern outside of the damage that can be done to animals and subsequently humans, is that mining also causes deforestation. Hunting and slash-and-burn agriculture are affected by illegal mining, and “miners take protected species including monkeys and macaws, and that in some areas miners are killing large number of fish employing a traditional fishing method used by Amerindians, which requires for sections of the river to be poisoned. Usually, it is only used in moderation, but that is no longer the case because of the illegal miners. The illegal mining is threatening research and tourism, too, with some ecotourist guides and researchers being killed for encroaching on the illegal miners’ territory or operations.

In sum, something must be done. The price we put on gold and the value we place on it cannot be more important than the tropical rainforests, animal and plant species, and the lives of scientists just to get some gold for jewelry.

For more information, read the full article at

Posted by Abdullah Alruwaished

Turkish olive producers vow to fight gold miners

Gold mining causes more harm than just the emissions it releases into the environment and the damage it does to the land. Mining for gold also affects the farming and other industries. Consider, for instance, olive trees. Right now, growing olives is a billions of dollars a year business, but companies wanting to buy the land used for growing olive trees are threatening the livelihood of olive producers. In the article “Turkish olive producers vow to fight gold miners,” the author wrote quoted a Turkish olive grower as stating, “Olive oil production is increasing. Annual consumption per person has risen from one kilogram to 1.5 kilos in five years. But the mining sector has an eye on our olive trees. If they succeed, we will not be able to harvest anymore.”

While olive trees can produce for thousands of years, the average lifespan of a gold mine is about ten years. So, gold mining will come into an area where olive trees are grown, and destroy the soil and air around it, making it impossible to continue to grow the olive trees. The mathematics of that comparison just does not add up. Gold will eventually run out, and there will be no more to mine. But olive trees could continue to be profitable and used to provide sustenance for thousands of years per tree. It just doesn’t make sense to kill olive trees to mine for gold to make more jewelry. The final quote of the article says it all: “Obviously the best option is to exploit both those resources that are on the surface as well as those lying beneath. But that is not always possible. And in this case we need to opt for what is best for humanity. Mining has tremendous side effects on the environment. And the figures show that olive production is more valuable than gold production.”

For more information, read the full article at

Posted by Abdullah Alruwaished

Mercury From Gold Production to Be Cut Under New EPA Rule

The article “Mercury from Gold Production to Be Cut Under New EPA Rule” does a great job of explaining how mercury emissions are released from gold mining and why that is dangerous to people. The article explains, “Mercury in lakes and rivers is converted into methyl mercury by bacteria. Fish ingest methyl mercury by swimming or feeding in contaminated water and the chemical accumulates in fish tissue and is concentrated as it is carried up the food chain to larger fish, animals and humans.”  The problem with this is that “The health effects in humans who ingest too much fish containing mercury includes neurological damage and danger to pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as young children.” Mercury stays in someone’s body; it is never processed or released. Eventually, it causes damage to the central nervous system. This problem is especially bad for children who ingest mercury, which causes language problems, poor memory, and other such neurological functions.

The EPA, as reported in the article, proposed new standards for gold mining in the U.S., and it is hoped that these standards will become the basis for other such regulations around the world. The standards being released by the EPA relate to the mercury air emissions by gold mining and other industries, but would be a great tool to reduce mercury in gold mining, which is the sixth largest source of mercury emissions in just the United States. The new standards would decrease the amount of emissions by 73 percent, something that would go a long way in protecting our children from the dangers of mercury emissions.

For more information, read the full article at

Posted by Abdullah Alruwaished

Searching for Alternatives...

It’s hard to deny that people like gold. It’s pretty, it’s rare, it’s a status symbol. It’s no wonder the biggest use of gold is for jewelry. That way people can show off the gold they have and feel special (or make others feel less special).

From a completely utilitarian view point, gold does have many very good characteristics. It’s malleable, you can bend it, pound it, stretch it, and it won’t break or crack. It doesn’t rust or corrode, it lasts just about forever. It’s a decent conductor.

But when you really think about it, what is it that makes us all want gold? Is gold really that pretty, or has the idea just been in our heads for so long and through so many generations that we just assume that gold is pretty and valuable?

Gold is the predominant material used in high end jewelry, especially wedding rings and bands. As this blog has pointed out in several posts that harmful gold is to the environment and the health of the workers, among other things. We all have a choice. It doesn’t matter what material the wedding ring is made from. It doesn’t matter what size the diamond is on top. It only matters what that ring symbolizes: love. There are many alternatives to using gold in jewelry and wedding rings. Jeweler James Allen has a wide selection of wedding bands made from titanium, cobaltchrome, ceramic, and ceramic-tungsten. All of which are as gorgeous, if not more gorgeous, than the gold bands.

Ladies, next time you’re out jewelry shopping, ask to look at the alternative metal jewelry. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Guys, the same thing goes for you when you are out there looking for an engagement ring or an anniversary gift.

-Matt Coppernoll

We All Own Gold Mines

Some of the gold mined in the United States is extracted from public land owned by you and me. Gold currently, as of 12/2/10 sells for $1,391 an ounce, which is over $1.25 million for one gold bar.

What do we get in return for the gold that is taken from taxpayer owned land? Nothing! The companies are not legally required to pay royalties for the gold they take from the land. Oil companies and coal companies have to pay royalties for resources they take, but not gold companies. Why is this? It all dates back to 1872, when Congress passed the General Mining Act of 1872, which authorized the prospecting and mining for economic minerals such as gold, silver, and platinum. All citizens of the United States of America 18 years or older have the right to locate a lode (hard rock) or placer (gravel) mining claim on federal lands open to mineral entry.

Why hasn’t this law changed? Because the gold industry has tremendous political power. Their reason for not allowing this change? The gold industry claims that with royalties imposed upon them, they would not be able to operate, and would seek opportunities elsewhere. Surely a company that charges over a thousand dollars per ounce can still remain profitable when the coal industry has to pay royalties and they only charge around $70 per ton.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Recycle your phones!

There are currently 500 million cell phones, weighing over 250,000 tons, stockpiled and waiting disposal. Worldwide, there are over 1.2 billion handsets sold each year. In the United States, there are over 280 million cell phones in use, with over 150 million replaced each year. The average expected lifetime of a cell phone is 1.5 years. The average household has 3 unused cell phones, and over 130 million cell phones are thrown away each year.

Did you know what it only takes 200 cell phones to have enough gold to create a gold ring? That’s much better for the environment than 20-80 tons of waste produced in gold mining. Of the 250,000 tons of cell phones stockpiled, there is over 20 tons of gold worth an estimated value of $235 million.

The good thing is cell phones are recyclable!

But sadly, only 1 in 10 cell phones are ever recycled.

USA: Cell For Cash
Canada: CellCycle
UK: RecycleMobilePhones
Australia: MazumaMobile

-Matt Coppernoll

Love, Earth – Green Gold and Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart started their big push for sustainability in 2005. In 2008, Pam Mortensen, in charge of buying fine jewelry for Wal-Mart, made it her goal to push Wal-Mart towards sustainable jewelry. Mortensen pushed for traceability within the supply chain. The ability to trace which mines the gold for each ring, bracelet, etc. came from gives Wal-Mart more purchasing power. This means that Wal-Mart can threaten suppliers to meet their standards or they will take their business elsewhere.

Wal-Mart has partnered with Tiffany & Co., the Richline Group, and Kennecott Utah Copper in this venture. The campaign, called Love, Earth, has strict criteria for suppliers of gold, and mines as well. For example, all suppliers must seek to reduce greenhouse emissions and report all greenhouse emissions. All mines must complete environmental and social impact assessments, following guidelines by the US National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or International Association for Impact Analysis (IAIA).

Currently the long term goal for Love, Earth is to achieve 100% conformance to their criteria and principles. The current short term goal is to achieve 10% traceability of gold, silver, and diamond used in Wal-Mart jewelry.

Newmont, Idarado, & Me

When you begin to look into gold mining one company rises to the top of any Google search, Newmont Mining Company.  Currently I am living this term out in Denver, Colorado on an internship and I found this fascinating and decided to drive down about 30 minutes to Greenwood Village to take a peek at their new headquarters and see if I could get into talk with someone.  I will come back to that adventure in a bit…
Newmont prides itself on how it leads the country in sustainability projects and how the company was selected to be part of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. Now my exploration of their site led me to their projects of sustainability and more importantly their Idarado mining operation in the south western reaches of the Colorado national parks.  According to the site the companies “mine closure, reclamation, and sustainable development” procedures come to life in the Idarado mines which had been independently operated since the 1860’s and part of the Newmont Co. from 1939-1979 (Beyond the Mine). Now I am not exactly sure when people started to notice the need for more sustainable practices when mining and substance, but I can say with almost certainty that during WWII it was not on the top of everyone’s mind.  So how sustainable could one company really be? Is there a method for cleaning up the problems left by gold mining that we have yet to discover but yet it took the Newmont Co. performed the task nearly 30 years ago?
The Newmont Co. did a very important thing for the mining communities and by restoring some of the scenic beauty that once stood and allowed for many communities to thrive in a growing tourists market after the mines had closed.  However, was this action really the company’s gracious effort to give back to a community that gave everything they had to them? Unfortunately no, according the State of Colorado’s government website, “in 1983, the State of Colorado filed suit against the Idarado Mining Company for natural resource damages under CERCLA.”  Now here is the part that we all throw out a little sigh of disappointment, but now I urge you to shoot out a “well hey!” as in, well hey this just proves our entire purpose behind what we are trying to accomplish with this class website!
Now back to my adventure to the headquarters building; where I entered to find a very lavish entrance with state-of-the-art everything.  I asked if I could speak with someone about the Idarado mine closures and they were quick to say you need to set up an appointment.  That process I came to discover was not one that the company would likely waste their time on with a out-of-state college girl with no real publicity power in the matter. So I took one last look around and stormed off (more of a strut with a hint of attitude) back to my car with the intent of writing mean things all over our site.  But I have come to realize that in comparison to many other mining companies the Newmont Co. is one of the “better” ones.  Do I believe it is wrong that their site raves about their sustainability missions but only highlights 10-20 sugar coated examples when the company has hundreds of sites all over the world? Yes. However again they are not going to change without force and that force is never going to be applied unless we as consumers step up and voice our opinion.  
A picture of denver I took on my phone.

~Lindsay Hofer