With all the attention given to sustainable diamonds and blood diamonds, it kind of makes you wonder about other mined precious gems and metals. Gold is everywhere in our society, and has been a measure of wealth throughout time. Wars have been fought over it, lands discovered for it, cities founded on it, and people slaughtered because of it.
Does the value placed upon gold is due to its rarity and beauty justify its place in our society? Only as recently as 1971, when the gold standard was finally eliminated as the basis of US currency, have we let go- or have we? Gold surrounds us, knowing no cultural boundary, and is still the most recognized outward display of wealth, however, it is also the cause of much suffering in the world.
Gold is very similar to diamonds in worldwide exploitation of workers and damage to the environment. A study done by the environmental nonprofit WorldWatch Institute found that 80 percent of destructively mined gold is used in gold jewelry.
Even so called ‘sustainable gold’ is nothing of the sort. For every ounce of gold refined, approximately 100 to 200 tons of earth is displaced. Environmental impacts from gold mining can include air pollution (mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide), acid mine drainage (slurry’s of arsenic, lead and mercury), depletion of water tables and toxic holding ponds containing heavy metals and cyanide, killing wildlife and leeching into drinking water supplies (and are usually left behind after mining activities have depleted the area.)
Unprecedented gold prices are causing third-world farmers to leave their fields and tear up nearby river banks in a new kind of gold rush fever. Even US mines are not monitored or certified by any credible independent agency for their sustainability or environmental practices.
The social aspect of gold mining is not any more glamorous. Slave miners are just as common in the gold mining industry as it is in the diamond mines. Many work without pay, toiling for weeks just for the chance to collect a small pile of rocks at the end of the month with the hope that the pile contains some gold, and they are considered lucky. Others are forced into slave labor by intimidation and threats.
Alternatives exist in the world of green eco jewelry. Pre-owned, vintage and antique gold jewelry exist, and it is not unheard of to refashion a piece from old or broken jewelry pieces. Gold and diamonds rarely depreciate in value, and you can add renewed sparkle to old rings simply by boiling them.
Recycled jewelry is common for all valuable metal pieces including gold, silver, platinum, and titanium – and are no different in quality than the original piece. Retailers such as C5 company, Green Karat and Brilliant Earth each provide recycled and renewed precious metal jewelry alternatives. Visit No Dirty Gold and convince retailers to consider other options by signing a petition against gold mining abuses.
Resources and Articles:
National Geographic – Gold, the true cost of a global obsession
The Green Guide