Environmental effects of mining vs. refining

Does anyone have any first-hand accounts of the effects on the
environment from mining or refining precious metals?

I’ve been a member of orchid for 4+ years, but haven’t posted in a
while. I am currently writing a research paper on this topic and need
first-hand accounts if anyone is willing to share. I’m sorry, but all
I can offer in return is a “Thank YOU!”

Thanks for the great topics and keeping me informed!


Does anyone have any first-hand accounts of the effects on the
environment from mining or refining precious metals? 

Check out ethical metalsmiths for info. on that.



Only suggestions. Have you contacted Mining Companies such as Hecla
Mining or Neumont? they are a couple of the biggest in the US for
gold. I’m sure they will happily tell you there side of the story,
mining processes that they use.

Then check into some of the anti mining groups like the one fighting
the Cabinet Mountain mine in Montana. I know they will give you all
sorts of AntiMining and environmental impact statements from their
point of view.

If you want to know about Contaminants from Silver mining and
refining chekout the governments clean up for the Silver
Valley area of Idaho. This will be based on a hundred years or so of
mining Silver and Galena (lead) in the Silver Valley and the
problems from those practices.

A slight anteicdote about the silver valley. Several people use to
put tincans in the water attached to a battery or power source and
reclaim silver that was dissolved in the water. This was then cashed
in to suppliment there meager wages.

Just maybe a few places to help you get started.

jack in Cold Chattaroy, WA

Hi there Mariel

10 years ago I used to be in the mining industry (exploration geology
in Ghana). Generally mining is not too harmful for the environment in
the long term (in the short term it can be incredibly destructive,
but the whole of Cornwall’s landscape and much of the Lake District
was subjected to intensive open cast mining 100 years ago and this is
considered quite beautiful now) as long as the work has been done
sensitively and responsibly. Similarly with refining. For both you
use some pretty nasty chemical, and end up with some pretty
destructive by products, but these can be contained and managed (and
generally are in current practice, barring accidents).

Feel free to contact me off list if you need more specifics

My family ownes several gold mines along the outer boarders of
Denali National Park in the interior of Alaska and I always wondered
if we were causing problems.

Come to find out that back in the day, the creek had already been
mined and 100’s of old batteries and pieces of equipment had been
just dumped in the creek. I guess it was cheaper then walking then
out of the bush.

After almost 400 lbs. of lead and several chunks of old melted
copper wires was picked out of the bottem of our large keen dredge,
I came to the conclusion, we were doing more good then harm.

I also discovered that down steam, the fish were feasting on all the
goodies we had stirred up.

We make sure that we leave everything in better shape than we found
it, and try to disturb as little as possible.

Well thats my two cents worth.



you can check out the US geological survey(s) for x years and get a
lot of data- govt generated though. then there are cases like Burra
Burra mine, in E. TN, closed due to the sulfuric acid damage from
copper mining to the Ocoee River (the river is now dead, not a fish
is in it, and if you cut or scrape yourself canoeing or kayaking it
will get infected every time because of the incredibly high bacteria
count in the water- no one swims in it ). Metal WebNews, Kitco, etc.
have mining companies listings( and in some cases reports on each).
From there you can look at their annual reports on the company’s
home page: they sometimes carry an environmental impact study -
mining company generated though! - and then green peace, and other
nature conservancy and/or action organizations and agencies have some
data - but as with the other sources, everything is subjective. So
don’t take reporting any at face value until you look at the
newspapers of the, usually small towns cited, and read what the
locals have to say about the areas in question- then make your
observations, with as much objectivity as is possible.

Precious metals mining is never good for the environment and even
though you hear about “safe” cyanide applications to collect
residual and other gold, silver and Pt residues from soils, old leach
fields, etc.

It is still harmful to aquatic life and fauna for years after mining
ceases and the damage done- and neutralization is rarely complete in
the number of years any mining company spends on " restoring the
area to it’s previous state" after they cease operations in a given
area. Why would anyone pour the hundreds of thousands of dollars into
an area they are no longer working, and is no longer profitable in a
capitalist (or any) economy? The world gold council and other
international agencies also are a worthwhile source of information
outside the US. I can tell you what I have seen in Appalachia- from
simple copper mining and the widespread effects that the byproducts
have left on the land and waterways involved in both mining and then
moving the products and by products - utter deforestation, dead
areas where there is noticeably little if any wildlife and rivers
that have nothing- not even much algae (very simple organisms) is
alive after mining has ceased over 40 years ago. hope this helps.

Try http://radicaljewelrymakeover.blogspot.com

The group also has a short documentary film on the effects of strip

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs

Nevada has a long history of mining. You might check with the Nevada
Division of Minerals, website:


or the Department of Mining Engineering at the University of Nevada
at Reno, website:


The Nevada State Library also has a webpage regarding the history of
mining in Nevada at


Good luck
Mike DeBurgh, GJG

THE DEVIL’S MINER - I watched this documentary film a few days ago.
It was at Net flix. It deals with the reality of silver mining in
Bolivia It showed the true cost of silver.

  1. The Devil’s Miner (2005) The Devil's Miner (2005) - IMDb

Filmmakers Kief Davidson - IMDb Kief Davidson and
Richard Ladkani - IMDb Richard Ladkani pan their
cameras beneath the surface of Bolivia’s Cerro Rico silver mines, a
place so dark, depressing and frightening that locals believe it’s
the devil’s home. Chronicling the daily ordeal of 14-year-old
breadwinner Basilio Vargas – who chews coca leaves on his way to
work to numb his persistent, primordial terror – this somber
documentary captures the hellish realities of fear.

There are many forms of gold mining. Arsenic is one of the main
environmental concerns when a mine was reopened upstream from my
home. The plan was for the arsenic laden water to be captured in a
lined settling pond. I don’t remember what the plan was to remove
the poison eventually. My neighbors and environmentalists were very
concerned about this. Accidents happen. I wonder if there has been
any innovation in replacing arsenic as necessary for capturing gold?

Marianne Hunter

I wonder if there has been any innovation in replacing arsenic as
necessary for capturing gold? 

I don’t think the arsenic is used for capturing gold, is it? I think
it’s an unwanted byproduct of cyanide leaching.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ

I wonder if there has been any innovation in replacing arsenic as
necessary for capturing gold? 

Today (and historically) small-scale gold miners use mercury to
"capture" the gold from the ore, forming a paste-like amalgam. The
easiest method to separate mercury and gold is to heat the amalgam,
driving off the mercury and leaving the gold behind. This method has
been in use since Roman times, and older mining areas are commonly
contaminated with mercury (among other things). Mercury in vapor
form circulates in the atmosphere and ends up contaminating
virtually every water body as rain carries it down from the
atmosphere. Invertebrates pick up the metal, and it works up the
food chain, showing high levels in predatory fish through
bioaccumulation - evidence the government’s caution about eating
certain fish.

Nasty stuff causes neurological damage. Those who eat a lot of fish
are most likely to be affected. Google "goldmining and mercury."
Lots of entries.

Judy in Kansas, where a winter storm watch is in effect, but so far
only a dusting of snow. Cold though!!