Gold mining is one of the most destructive industries in the world. It can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, harm workers and destroy pristine environments. It contaminates water and land with mercury and cyanide, endangering the health of people and ecosystems. Mining has been identified as one of the human activities that can have a negative impact on the quality of the environment.
As a process that eliminates soil and vegetation and produces burials under waste disposal sites, mining destroys natural ecosystems. Alan Septoff, communications director for the No Dirty Gold campaign, says that easily accessible gold has become increasingly scarce over time. The sulfidic nature of many gold deposits makes it difficult for leaching agents to be accessible, but the activity of several acidophilic and chemolithotrophic bacteria oxidizing iron and sulfur has been reported to help the oxidation of the sulfide matrix. Mercury can also be released into the environment as a result of the ongoing reprocessing of some old gold waste landfills.
By adopting Clean Mining's non-toxic solution, gold miners can build a future in which gold mining and the environment coexist in harmony. Heap leaching is used for low-quality minerals and involves the extraction of crushed oxide gold ore stacked on plastic-coated pads with leaching solvents such as acids or cyanide to dissolve the gold that is collected at the bottom of the pad. Approximately 90% of the mercury consumed in the United States during this period was used in gold and silver mining. Brilliant Earth, Leber Jeweler and Toby Pomeroy are three companies that have abandoned new gold and have chosen instead to sell only recycled and second-hand material, thus eliminating mining from the equation.
There is a clean, non-toxic solution available on the market that can recover gold without toxic chemicals. The high demand for gold and fluctuating gold prices have made it necessary to process lower quality minerals, waste landfill materials and scrap waste. To develop an efficient bioremediation approach for gold mine waste, a better understanding of bacterial interactions with metals in this environment is required. The Grasberg mine, in Indonesia, is one of the largest gold mines in the world and is owned by the American company Freeport McMoran.
Beth Gerstein, co-founder of Brilliant Earth, based in San Francisco, says that for a long time there have been “inconsistencies between the traditionally perceived value of gold as a romantic symbol and the reality of extracting raw gold from Earth.” These bacteria help the enrichment of metals in the water of gold minerals and mines, in a solubilization process called biolealization. While the EPA strives to remedy and restore nearly countless mines in the United States, and as activists work to stop the wave of demand in the gold industry, efforts are being made to develop more open pit mines. The use of bacteria in gold mining, known as biomining, has received considerable attention due to the potential roles played by these bacteria in recovering gold from gold-containing minerals.