The price of gold has skyrocketed. People are digging into their jewelry box to find gold to sell and others are panning for gold, hoping to find that giant nugget. Extraction of substantial amounts of gold requires mining for it beneath the Earth's surface. Gold is a precious metal used around the world in jewelry, electronics and even dentistry. Mining for gold has some negative effects, including erosion, the use of cyanide, loss of biodiversity and disruption of indigenous communities. Concerns about the hazards of gold mining sometimes refer to that shiny metal as dirty gold.
Erosion is when solid deposits are weathered over a period of time and moved from their natural spot to a new destination. Erosion occurs naturally in the wild but can also occur as a negative effect of gold mining. The mining process moves large amounts of earth to extract small amounts of gold. Excessive amounts of gold mining can wash away soil into nearby rivers as well as strip an area of soil altogether. Serious erosion can also strip an area of its ability to support agriculture.
The chemical cyanide is used in the extraction of gold from ore. It is very toxic to humans and animals. When the chemical enters the body, it suppresses the central nervous system causing respiratory failure and death. The cyanide used in gold mining can get into the soil, and through the process of erosion, can make its way into lakes and streams. Fish and waterfoul are adversely impacted by polluted bodies of water. This in turn can pollute water, posing a threat to drinking water.
Loss of Biodiversity
In the gold mining process, land must be cleared for mining. Clear-cutting trees disrupts local ecosystems, causing animals to flee the area or perish. Also, when the chemicals used in gold mining make their way into the soil and the water, they disrupt the local wildlife by poisoning their sources of food and water. Often, toxic chemicals used in gold mining is simply dumped into local ponds.
In many remote parts of the world, indigenous communities still exist and gold mining may disrupt their lives. Large gold mining companies will often secure land deals from the local governments. During this process they eject, often violently, the local indigenous population. Governments in these regions have been known to kill indigenous people for refusing to leave areas that have been sold to gold mining companies.