What if the environmental movement could do to gold what the animal-rights movement did to fur — convince the public that far from being a badge of success, it is a symbol of cruelty and vanity? Some environmentalists would like to do just that, and they’ve got the facts to back them up: Gold mining leads to cyanide contamination in water sources, which is harmful for plants, fish, and humans. Even more alarming, gold mining is highly resource-intensive, with the industry using more water in Nevada — where most gold in the U.S. is mined — than is consumed by people. All that, for an entirely non-essential industry: Not only is gold unnecessary for subsistence and survival, 90 percent of the gold that has ever been mined is still around, either in bank vaults or dripping off the rich and famous. Still, anti-gold-mining activists are fighting an uphill battle: The industry is healthier than ever, and there are hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs on the line.
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