In the vicinity of Haile Gold Mine at Kershaw, South Carolina of the United States lie the homes of many families. Angel Estridge, a resident whose family owns property less than a mile from a pond of nasty mining waste, said that the reality of living near a gold mine is worrisome.
She fears that leaks from the waste disposal pond could pollute well water and the creek that runs by her family’s home, especially since the mine has broken environmental laws multiple times.
Since 1887, toxic sodium cyanide has been used in gold mining and remains the primary reagent for gold processing today — the reason being that it allows gold to be efficiently extracted from low-grade ore. However, the use of cyanide in gold mining produces huge quantities of toxic waste that are laden with cyanide and toxic heavy metals.
Waste disposal ponds or dams of gold mines have been a common cause of health issues.
Last year, more than 150 people living in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, filed a complaint with the Australian authorities against mining giant Rio Tinto, stating that a mine it abandoned in Papua New Guinea 20 years ago is leaking poisonous waste into rivers. They said that waste from the copper and gold mine was causing health problems for 12,000 people living nearby.
Similarly, when mines were shut in Kolar Gold Fields, India, in 2001, environmental waste was left near the site. The mines generated about 35 million tonnes of residue from ore processing, and the effluents, comprising cyanide and silica, were dumped in mounds. Cyanide dumps, locally known as cyanide hills, can reach a height of 40 metres. These cyanide dumps, covered by a cloud of dust and reek of sulphur dioxide, cause air pollution. Even in 2020, residents are complaining that the particulate matter is a major cause of skin allergies and respiratory problems in the area.
Evidently, the use of cyanide in gold mining is not only highly toxic, but also has long-term ramifications — nearby residents still face injurious environmental and health risks even after two decades.
Are we going to continue risking the health and lives of current and future generations?
It is high time to eliminate the use of cyanide in gold mining. Clean Mining, a part of Clean Earth Technologies, has a solution. It has developed a new mineral processing technology that obviates the need for toxic cyanide in the gold recovery process. Developed for more than a decade by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, this solution replaces toxic cyanide with a non-toxic gold recovery agent, which benefits both human and environmental health.
The use of this solution not only produces less hazardous tailings (residue from ore extraction) and has the potential to eliminate tailings dams, but also delivers similar gold recovery rates to cyanide at a low cost.
Clean Mining’s gold recovery agent is a crucial first step to creating a safe living environment for future generations, especially those living near gold mines.