Extracting a single ounce of gold requires the removal of at least 60 tonnes of rock, leaving a scar on the landscape. And extracting it from this rock often means leaching it out with cyanide. At the other end of the scale, an estimated 12m to 15m individual miners—today’s equivalent of the 49ers—smash rocks by hand and use mercury to separate the gold from the crushed result. They then vaporise the mercury using a blowtorch, leaving gold behind. It is effective, but mercury vapour is extremely toxic.
No Dirty Gold argues that stricter regulation of mining practices must be introduced to prevent further environmental damage. If the campaign can garner as much publicity as the ‘blood diamond’ industry has in recent years, change just might be on the horizon.