I just finished watching Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living (a Sundance Channel show, available to stream from Netflix), and–wow–there is so much I didn’t know about gold mining. In this episode, the host follows the path of production of a gold ring. A little about what I learned…
Most gold mines in the US are located in Nevada. The air and water pollution caused by the mining operations have become a serious problem. Material from the open pit mines is blasted away and hauled into piles for extraction. It’s hard to believe, but the production of one gold ring creates 20 tons of mine waste. To extract the gold, the mined material is drenched with cyanide, which makes its way into the local waterways. The byproducts of gold mining create acid mine drainage, which raises the acidity of water and is detrimental to the plants and animals that rely on clean waterways. Mercury released into the air in the process is captured in rain and snow, and deposited in waterways as well. And most often, the pits are left open when the mining company is finished with them, continuing to leach acid mine drainage. The show didn’t cover mining operations in other countries, but I imagine they face even greater environmental and social problems due to mining.
But there’s good news. There is a growing movement of ecological and social responsibility in the jewelry industry. With a little research, you can find jewelers working with recycled gold, such as greenkarat.com, dawes-design.com, and wiserjewelry.com. Using recycled gold means there is no additional mining necessary for the production of your jewelry.
An even less resource intensive option is to reuse a ring. Many brides prefer a vintage piece of jewelry to a new one. Antique jewelry dealers are a great resource for interesting vintage pieces. If a family member has jewelry to share, an heirloom ring makes a meaningful engagement or wedding ring. Or, check retailers like bravobride.com for used rings.
Just as most consumers aren’t aware of the social and environmental impacts of the cut flower industry, I wasn’t aware of the impact of gold mining. It was an eye-opening program–check it out! Hopefully they’ll do one on flowers soon!
- www.sundancechannel.com/ecotrip/ Sundance Channel’s Eco Trip.
- www.nodirtygold.org Learn more about gold mining’s impacts and find retailers who support the No Dirty Gold campaign.
- www.nytimes.com/2005/10/24/international/24GOLD.html?_r=2&oref=slogin NYT Article: Behind Gold’s Glitter: Torn Lands and Pointed Questions