When it comes to gold mining, unfortunately, all that shines is not only the precious mineral.
Glistening among most gold mining operations are toxic chemicals like cyanide and mercury and wastewater-filled tailing dams that catch water infused with harmful chemicals and other mining by-products.
While cyanide and mercury are a highly effective reagents for extracting gold from ore, which have been used for more than a century in gold mining, the poisonous substances present major risks to the environment, mine workers and surrounding communities.
As times move on, communities, governments and miners are uncovering the hidden costs of toxic chemical use, which far surpass the monetary expenses incurred through daily mining operations.
Clean Mining Managing Director, Jeff McCulloch, explains that, beyond the potential threats of chemicals leaching into the environment or total tailing dam failure, there are huge costs to workers, communities and even mining companies involved in gold mining.
“Many existing users of cyanide claim that it is safe but “safe” is an inaccurate term as cyanide is always toxic. What cyanide users mean by “safe” is that risk has been mitigated through complex rules, regulations, processes, engineering design, reporting and so on,” Mr McCulloch explains.
“But it costs a lot to mitigate risk – complex safety procedures and equipment, freight excesses, insurances, regulation and compliance costs, monitoring and reporting systems, chemical destruction and rehabilitation costs – to name just a few.
“The reality is that cyanide is becoming more of a liability for miners every day.
“Globally, regulations associated with cyanide are even holding back development of some major gold deposits. The Rosia Montana gold-silver deposit in Romania is a good example as it has the potential to be Europe’s biggest gold producer but remains caught up in Parliamentary debate over heritage and environmental impacts, especially in the wake of the 2000 Baia Mare cyanide spill, which saw cyanide-laced water flow into the Danube River.
“Jurisdictions in China, Eastern Europe, Argentina, Central America and the United States have either implemented, or plan to implement, bans on cyanide use all together,” Mr McCulloch adds.
“So, at Clean Mining, we ask why a mining company would want to incur so many mitigation costs to create a perception that they have a safe process when there is a non-toxic alternative?
“We believe the mining sector must, and can, do things differently – and options like Clean Mining’s cyanide-free gold processing is a big part of the solution.”
Clean Mining’s technology removes gold mining’s harmful hidden human and environmental costs to provide a cleaner, safer, more environmentally-friendly ore extraction solution.
Using a non-flammable, water soluble, inorganic compound called thiosulphate, the Clean Mining technology delivers a safer workplace for mine employees and eliminates risk to the environment and local communities.
Like cyanide, thiosulphate can dissolve gold from low-grade ore. However, unlike cyanide, it isn’t a lethal chemical and the process involved doesn’t require the addition of acid, chlorine, high temperature or pressure vessels. And, with the recovery and reuse of the thiosulphate solution, tailing dams are not necessary and water and thiosulphate can be recycled.
“Clean Mining wants to see a world where traditional toxic mining processes are eliminated and miners operate responsibly and with transparency and integrity toward communities, customers, clients, regulators, governments and investors,” Mr McCulloch adds.
“With Clean Mining’s effective, environmentally-friendly and commercially viable option now available to gold miners, and with the hidden costs of gold mining gaining greater attention, it’s difficult to mount any creditable case for high-risk methods of gold processing to continue as standard practice. It’s time to move on.”
Image: Cyanide spill in Romania.