Gold mining’s toll on environment mounts as supply grows scarcer
That one-ounce gold ring you’re wearing? Think of it as 30 tons of rock mined, moved, and saturated with diluted cyanide. Gold mining wreaks enormous environmental destruction, almost all of it in service of the voracious global market for gold jewelry. And as good gold deposits grow scarcer, mining companies have to rip up the earth with even more of a vengeance to get at the bits that remain. In the U.S., hard-rock mining generates more toxic waste than any other industry, the EPA says, and taxpayers often get stuck with the cleanup bills. But, thanks in part to often ill-conceived development schemes pushed by the World Bank, about 70 percent of gold is now mined in developing countries like Guatemala and Ghana, where oversight is frequently lacking and the poorest people living closest to the mines seem to benefit the least. Today’s New York Times explores the globalized gold industry in an extensive feature that ranges from the mine-made wastelands of Nevada to the jewelry markets of New Delhi.