June 20, 2024

The Downside to Rising Gold Prices

Investors in gold have reason to cheer as gold prices rise but there is a definite downside to increased prices. Impoverished populations that lack the basics of human comfort have no choice except to mine gold regardless of the environmental consequences.

Although large gold miners do not use mercury, small mines frequently use mercury in the separation and recovery of gold from ore extracts. Besides the danger of handling mercury and breathing the vapors, vast environmental damage is being done in the process of gold recovery, as documented by Bloomberg.

Lax supervision and outright support of informal mining by Brazilian authorities were behind a 46% jump in Yanomami land degradation last year in the form of deforestation and contamination of water and soil, according to a report released Monday.

Artisanal miners known as garimpo have wrecked 3,272 hectares (8,085 acres), with the size of the area doubling since 2018, according to the latest edition of “Yanomami Under Attack,” which is prepared by community groups with support by Brazilian conservation group Instituto Socioambiental. Their presence is also introducing more disease, weapons and alcohol.

The Yanomami are facing a second big gold rush since the 1980s, with an estimated 20,000 illegal miners inside an area of forest that straddles Brazil and Venezuela. The growing threat to remote Amazon communities comes as the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro plans to allow mining on indigenous lands in a bill that’s even opposed by large mining companies. As lawmakers prepare to vote, about 7,000 indigenous people are camped out in the nation’s capital in protest.

This situation seems to be beyond the control of local governments and like many other world problems are insurmountable.

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