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Disturbing gold mining news


To All, This months Smithsonian magazine gives disturbing news about
gold mining procedures. We all know that mercury is used in mining
in South America, but did we know how much?

Just within the Amazon basin, some 1.2 million people extract
roughly 200 tons of gold a year, and the production of each gram of
gold requires one to four grams of mercury! Up to 40% of this
mercury escapes into the environment. An estimated 128 tons a year
leaches into the Amazon alone.

Research in Manu, Peru, and the nearby gold mining area show that
mercury levels in fish are too high for human consumption. Not only
are the fish at risk, the one and only refuge of the Giant Otter is
threatened, mercury accumulates in their bodies in toxic

The solution…is relatively simple. Miner could heat their ore in a
closed vessel, capturing most of the mercury. But miners dislike the
process-it produces a discolored lump of gold that fetches lower
prices. We all have most likely seen TV shows about this region and
the disregard for life including humans.

I put the question up, literally, to the globe here on Orchid. What’s
the proper solution?

Thomas Blair
Designing Goldsmith
Island Gold Works
Hilton Head S.C.


What’s the proper solution? Here are my 2 cents-

Greenpeace has been active in this issue. Supporting Greenpeace
would be one good course of action- see below-

It is not only the wildlife which is harmed by the irresponsible use
of m ercury- the miners themselves will no doubt be "mad as hatters"
due to me rcury-induced neurological damage after months/years of
this practice.

The roots of this problem are (1)ignorance and (2)greed. To attack
this problem, we need to educate the miners, and deal with the
profit motive. The greed is not just in the rainforest- businesses
in the US, Spain and Mexico which produce mercury are profiting from
this practice. Regulation of the sale of mercury in Brazil is needed-
but such regulations will ha ve the effect of decreasing
international trade in mercury. The World Tra de Organization opposes
regulations promoting environmental protection an d human rights if
those regulations have a negative impact on internation al trade, so
you can bet on the mercury wholesalers as well as the WTO op posing
productive change in this area (this is why folks are taking to th e
streets to demonstrate their opposition to the WTO- it is a
non-elected , undemocratic organization of plutocrats which opposes
human rights and environmental protection in the name of $$$.)

Lee Einer