For the love of gold and the pollution of our ecosystem

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Gold is one of the most popular, most coveted, most expensive, and perhaps, most precious metals in the world. Virtually no one in this world would mind owning a piece of the metal. Currently, a gram of gold is worth about $55.16 United State's dollar. It has found its use mainly as an ornamental piece in the design of jewelry, vessels, silverwares, and artifacts.

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Polluted water; a consequence of gold mining

Most people that adore the precious metal know very little to nothing, and most still do not bother to know, about its genesis. It occurs naturally as mineral deposits in the soil mostly in association with other metals - heavy metals to be precise. Gold deposits exist in many regions of the world and serve a major source of conflict in some troubled underdeveloped and developing countries.

There are several methods through which gold mining can be made, often depending on the nature of the deposit. These include:

  • Placer mining
  • Panning
  • Sluicing
  • Dredging
  • Rocker box
  • Hardrock mining

Some other classification grouped mining methods into four main types, including in-situ mining, surface mining, underground mining, and placer mining. Gold mining, and in actual fact, every other mining disrupt the ecosystem in several ways. In developed countries, the least disruptive method is used for mining but the reverse seems to be the case for underdeveloped and developing countries. Mining in the less developed countries are mostly characterized by destructive tendencies to the environment without giving premium to biodiversity or even the lives of those that live in the mining areas.

Findings in my recent trip

I made a post yesterday about a visit to local oil palm producing plant somewhere in the Southwestern part of Nigeria. I placed emphasis on the role that water plays in the oil extraction process from the cooked palm fruits and how proximity to water source is a major determining factor in the the localization of palm oil production plant.

The first thing that caught my attention when I got to the palm oil extraction unit is how dirty the water beneath the foating oil looks. However, a look at the river which serves as the source of water for the production plant tells the entire story. Something is totally wrong with the water because the appearance is totally abnormal.

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A look at the river that serves as water source for the oil palm production.

One might argue that it is normal for rivers to be dirty. However, the dirty appearance of this particular river looks unusual. Nigeria is currently at the peak of dry season where rivers are expected to be at their lowest volumes and cleanest appearance. At the peak of the rainy season , between July and August, rivers are usually at their highest volumes and at their dirtiest.

This particular river is known as the Owena river. At the peak of rainy season, it has never appeared this dirty from my personal observation and from that of the locals. Upon further investigations, it appeared that a gold mining activities is ongoing somewhere along the course of the river. The dredging activities for gold extraction and the discharged water is what made the river to take up such appearance.

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The Owena river serves a variety of purpose for the villages that are set up along the course of the river. It is the primary source of water for domestic uses, such as drinking, washing, cooking, irrigation, and a host of other uses. It also serves as a fishing ground for local fishermen. The gold miners took zero cognizance of all these important uses of the water to the locals and indiscriminately pollute the water with their continuous quest for the precious metal.

The implication of the pollution

Wastes from the mining of gold are usually associated with heavy metals like copper, nickel, arsenic, lead, etc in addition to particulate matters. When these are deposited in water bodies, they change the aesthetic as well as the biological properties of the water bodies. Heavy metals are largely poisonous to the biological system in high concentrations and they gradually build up within the body in what is known as bioaccumulation.

Hence, the particulate matters and other pollutants in the waste gradually kills off the biological organisms within the water and render the water dangerous for domestic use. Unfortunately, in this particular case, the locals do not know the implication of using the polluted water. It was business as usualy for them and it was rather appaling to see the water being used for oil palm production. A lot of times, the locally produced oil palm travels as far as other countries, including the advance ones.

Villagers that know the implication of the pollution often try to put up a fight but are often met with stiff resistance from profit-seeking businessmen or government. This is why gold mining represents one of the reasons for conflicts in conflicted regions of the world, especially in the developing countries.

You still love gold?

Perhaps some of my gold-loving audience do not know what their love for gold has caused and still causing for the environment and humanity in general. It is almost impossible for gold mining, and mining in general, to be environment friendly. You all just need to know the implications of your love for precious metals in general. There have been arguments on how BTC and crypto mining is detrimental to the environment. Those that are investing in gold might have probably thought of themselves as some kind of saints while in actual fact, gold mining is more dentrimental to both the environment and humanity in general.

Resources

More images of the gold-mining polluted water:

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8 comments
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Most of the cases of banditry and community clashes currently in the country has gold mining behind them. A blessing that has now turned a curse for the country. Interesting piece.

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Right. It looks like mere conflicts on the surface, but deep down, it is a fight for resources.

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Most people wanted to have the precious metals, but they failed to realized that a healthy place to grow plants and raise animals is what should we desire. It is a fact that we need this metal to spark progress and development. Why can we not mine metals and also care about the environment. There is no bad taste in mining when it is done properly and responsibly. I do hope we see that a place we can lived in is better than the minerals we can get from it.

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In case you later find out where the mining activities is taking place, please do inform me @noble-noah . The quest to visit the environment has been long. Thanks @hadji !

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I am sure that can be found out. Will refer back as soon as I get to know.

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