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Industrial Mining: Damaging Effects on the Planet and Our Health Part 2 of 3



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Did you know that gold mining is one of the world’s most ecologically destructive industries? Gold mining has ravaged landscapes, contaminated water supplies, and contributed to the destruction of vital ecosystems. Often, gold mining processes leave in their wake extensive soil erosion and contamination of streams or other bodies of water with mercury, a toxic liquid metal.

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations met to push forward action to halt the damaging effects of artisanal and small-scale gold mining on human health and the environment. Regarding this issue, WHO senior scientist Dr. Magaran Bagayoko says, “Small scale gold mining is a crucial source of income for millions of Africans, but it is often dangerous, damaging, and in the worst cases, deadly, for artisanal miners. Exposure to elemental mercury can cause life-long disability, kidney failure, and speech, sight, and cognitive impairment. Pregnant women and children are at particular risk.”

Simon Topp, a doctoral student in geological sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who co-led the study, says, “In heavily mined watersheds, there's been a 670% increase in the extent of ponds across the landscape since 1985. These ponds are almost entirely artificial lakes created as thousands of former mining pits fill in with rainwater and groundwater over time.”

At present, greenhouse gas emissions across the entire gold industry – from exploration and extraction to downstream uses such as jewelry-making – contribute 36,793 tons of carbon dioxide per ton of gold extracted and used. The World Gold Council (WGC) and its members recognize that climate change poses substantial risks to the global economy and socio-economic development. The WGC aims to meet 2030 decarbonization goals laid out by the Paris Agreement.

We’re delighted to share the news that earlier this year Ghana’s Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, the Honorable Samuel Abu Jinapor, announced the decision to suspend all prospecting licenses granted for mining, thus urging the government to cancel all prospecting mining licenses.

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