oxsal (oxsal) wrote in oxfamco,

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The more you know, the less gold glows...

Did you know that the production of one gold ring generates 20 TONS of mine waste! Most consumers don't know where the gold in their products comes from, or how it is mined. Before you take off your gold jewelry out of guilt, read this post to see what you can do to rid the world of dirty metals!

In this post you will find:
1. The problem with mining
2. The affects on environment, health, economy and society
3. Oxfam’s No Dirty Gold Campaign
4. Your Homework Assignment

Gold mining is one of the word’s dirtiest and most dangerous industries. It wreaks havoc on local economies by destroying streams, contaminating valuable soil and making people sick who live in mining regions. Due to lax environmental standards and human rights violations, gold mining has become an international disaster.

Did you know? Some facts about mining…
*Fourteen of the top 15 toxic polluting facilities in the U.S. are mines.
*Mining uses up to 10 percent of world energy consumption
*Every year, mines in the U.S. produce almost nine times as much waste (by weight) as trash produced by all U.S. cities and towns combined.
*Ninety percent of all gold mined in the U.S. uses a cyanide leaching process. A teaspoon full of 2 percent cyanide solution is enough to kill a person. In 1992, a cyanide spill at the Brewer gold mine in South Carolina killed more than 11,000 fish over a 50-mile stretch of the Lynches River.
*Contrary to popular perception, mining is not linked with economic prosperity. Countries that depend on mining are liked with high unemployment and poverty rates. In 2000, countries that had been dependent on mining in the 1970’s and 1980’s had a level of per capita income over $9,000 lower than non-mine dependent countries.

The Environment
Gold mining requires a lethal extraction process. One of the most toxic processes is called “heap leaching” – a procedure whereby the crushed ore is piled into heaps and sprayed with cyanide. The cyanide then trickles down through the ore and bonds with the gold. The resulting gold cyanide solution is eventually stored in artificial ponds for reuse. Due to the scale and duration (decades) of these operations, it is almost impossible to prevent the cyanide from seeping out of the pools and into the groundwater. A rice-grain sized dose of cyanide can be fatal to humans, and the levels discharged from mines have polluted rivers, triggered massive fish kills and poisoned communities.

Not only does cyanide cause destruction and death through polluted water, but toxic air pollutants are also released into the environment though the mining process. The air pollution emitted has high concentrations of sulfur and nitrogen oxides, major components of acid rain and smog. In fact, smelting (using a furnace to release gold from the ore) puts 142 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere every year – that’s 13 percent of total global emissions! Along with sulfur dioxide and cyanide, other carcinogenic substances are also emitted, including mercury, lead and arsenic. In the US, 96 percent of all reported arsenic emissions were from mines. If air pollution were n

Gold mining is not only destructive because of the manner in which the gold is extracted from the earth and the environmental toll, but it is also destructive because of the locations from which it is mined. Mining territory is often rich in biodiversity and is commonly located on indigenous lands or within natural preserves. In fact half of all the gold mined from 1995 to 2015 is likely to come from the traditional territories of indigenous peoples. And one-quarter of World Heritage Sites listed for natural value are at risk from past, current or planned mining or oil and gas drilling.

Mining Hotspots Around the World
Zambia: Copperbelt
Local communities suffer from asthma, lung diseases, and other health problems caused by pollution from copper mines and smelters run by Anglo-Americans and other companies

Honduras: San Martin
This open-pit gold and silver mine, run by Canada’s Glamis Gold, is destroying forests and drying up local farmland. The mine consumes 1.5 million liters of water a day.

Romania: Baia Mare
In 2000, the tailings dam from this gold mine spilled 100,000 metric tons of toxic wastewater, killing fish and poisoning the drinking water of 2.5 million people.

Papua New Guinea: Ok Tedi
This mine sends 200,000 tons of waste into the Ok Tedi river each day!

Right in our own back yard
The U.S. is the third largest gold-producing country in the world, with four of the world’s largest 10 gold mines located in Nevada. We are also not immune to the environmental and social costs of the mining industry. In Montana, the Zortman-Landusky gold mine has destroyed Spirit Mountain, a sacred site for the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes. Also in Alaska, the world’s largest zinc mine, Red Dog, is also the largest polluter in Alaska. 196,000 metric tons of toxic pollutants are released each year.

Land Rights and International Human Rights
Around half of all the gold mined from 1995 to 2005 is likely to come from traditional territories of indigenous people. Because these are often remote areas, the relative isolation of these peoples from mainstream society often leaves them without basic legal rights and protection. This in turn has lead to greater vulnerability abuse. According to standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, violations linked to gold mining have taken place in the form of worker safety violations and outright abuse, including rape, murder and torture. Often abuse comes when there is community opposition to mining, which is then met with violent suppression by the companies themselves or by government forces working with the mining companies.

In Papua, Indonesia, where Freeport McMoran operates the Grasberg gold and copper mine, human rights investigators have documented numerous human rights violations – including rape, torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detention – committed by the Indonesian military against the indigenous communities living near the mine. Human rights activists have long suspected that Freeport was paying the Indonesian soldiers directly, an arrangement that would make the company complicit to the military’s abuses. In 2003, this was suspicion was confirmed. In a 2003, document requested by Freeport’s shareholders confirmed that the company was paying the Indonesian military $4.7 million in 2001 and $5.6 million in 2002.

The irony is, it is the people of the land who should have the right to decide whether mining will take place in their communities or not, without the threat of abuse. After all, it’s the local inhabitants who suffer due to both physical displacement and a displacement of traditional livelihood. Thus, Oxfam is calling for mining companies to refrain from projects that have not secured the free, prior and informed consent of the communities concerned!

Economic impacts of mining
Despite the enormous enviromnental toll, mining industry employs only 0.09 percent of the global workfoce. And despite the usual promise of jobs, the mining economy typically creates little employment for indigenous people when mining comes to town. Either the jobs are dangerous and short term (most large scale projects have a maximum life span of 10-40 years) or, in large operations, skilled laborers are brought in by the mining companies. Women are especially vulnerable, since their agricultural jobs are usually replaced, and they are forced to find work in other areas.

Another economic problem is that mining money is not generated into local economies like is should be. Rather, most metal extracted in poor countries is exported as the ore itself, which then gets processed and manufactured in wealthy countries. It is the developed nations that make the wealth at someone else’s expense.

Social impacts of mining
A heavy dependence on mining also correlates strongly with a wide range of serious social problems, such as high levels of poverty, low levels of education and poor health care. Nearly half of the world’s poorest countries show this dependency: mining is the biggest export sector. In the past couple decades; poverty in these dependent areas has deepened. According to the UN commission on Trade and Development, the proportion of people living on less that $1 a day in poor mineral-exporting countries rose from 61 percent in 198101983 to 82 percent in 1997-1999.

Simply, when mining companies leave, communities are left with both environmental contamination and cultural contamination. Drinking, drug use and prostitution are often introduced to communities, yet beneficial social services do not stay. When the mine leaves any schools, clinics and other services established by the companies loose their funding. In other words, communities are left to fend for themselves, often with a destroyed environment, economic displacement and a changed identity.

"If humanity knew the truth about gold mining, and how much harm it generates, things would begin to change." - Mariano Fiestas, a citrus farmer in the San Lorenzo Vally, the site of the proposed Tambogrande gold mine in Peru.

So you may be wondering, what is Oxfam doing to tackle this enormous problem? Well,
Oxfam America is working in partnership with Earthworks to expose the harmful effects of gold mining operations. The goal of the No Dirty Gold Campaign is focusing on both consumer education, and mobilizing the rights of indigenous people to stand up for themselves and their land.

The campaign also addresses the environmental devastation and human rights violations linked to the gold mining industry. As consumers within the global community, we must act conscientiously –knowing where our products come from and how they are produced.

The No Dirty Gold campaign demands that the mining industry put an end to harmful gold mining practices. A basic agenda for reform would include the following:

•Respect the basic human rights outlined in international declarations and conventions, such as the UN "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," the draft "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," and others.
•Provide safe working conditions and respect workers' rights to collective bargaining, in accordance with the eight core conventions of the International Labor Organization.
•Refrain from projects that have not secured the free, prior, and informed consent of the communities concerned.
•Fully disclose information about the environmental and social effects of their projects.
•Stay out of protected areas.
•Stop dumping mine waste into natural bodies of water.
•Refrain from projects that are expected to cause acid drainage.
•Provide guaranteed funding, before beginning a project, that will fully cover reclamation and closure costs.
•Allow independent reviews of social and environmental management practices.

What you can do TODAY: Use your consumer power! Your signature will help convince retailers, manufacturers and mining companies that consumers want to see real changes in the mining industry--and an alternative to irresponsibly mined metals.
Sign the No Dirty Gold pledge, by going to: http://www.nodirtygold.org/take_action.cfm

"I support the No Dirty Gold campaign to end destructive gold mining practices. I call on retailers and manufacturers of gold jewelry, electronics, and other goods to work to ensure that the gold in their products was not produced at the expense of local communities, workers, and the environment. I demand that the global mining industry provide retailers and consumers an alternative to dirty gold."

What you can do THIS WEEK:
Start thinking about what you can do this fall on your campus. This may mean organizing an education campaign, spreading the word though tabling, getting signatures on the No Dirty Gold Pledge, or inviting a guest speaker to come and speak about the international/environmental impact of mining.

Another project to take up would be Class Rings. If your campus is a large purchaser of class rings, find out who your ring provider is and whether they have signed/will sign the No Dirty Gold pact. Also investigate where the gold used in the rings comes from and how the gold is being mined. For example, Jostens would be a good company to target. Currently, Jostens is one of the top ring provider for US college campuses. The US class ring market reached $495 million in total revenue in 2003, and Jostens’ holds an estimated 45% share of the market. To get Jostens to sign the No Dirty Gold pact would be a great campaign that colleges across the country could participate in!

Post your ideas, thoughts, questions and ideas! We want to year what YOU have to say.

If you are interested in receiving more information about No Dirty Gold, email us at: communityorganizer@oxfamamerica.org
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