The Shortcomings of Gold Mining

The gold mining industry produces a substantial amount of waste, and presents great risk to the surrounding people and the environment. These residual by-product s called tailings are often stored in tailing dams. Gold mine tailing dams are an extremely perilous part of the mining industry, whose processes utilise toxic chemicals such as cyanide, mercury and arsenic. The disposal of tailings is quintessential to sustainability. When these tailing dams fail, as they often do, the damage to our ecosystem is immeasurable. As of recently, there have been 221 collected case records of such incidents. Each of these incidents has created a wide-reaching, lasting impact on communities. The main cause of these incidents was identified to be a lack in understanding of safety features that would ensure the toxic chemicals remain confined.

The important safety elements include a thorough geotechnical investigation, a well-engineered design, construction, and vigilant monitoring of the tailing dams. One of the most vital elements would be the quality of the engineering. The strength of its construction offers more security; it is crucial that these dams be built with the utmost circumspection. The research titled ‘Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of a gold mine tailing through the multi-criteria decision making tool’ applies Multi Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) methods to better evaluate its effectiveness in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. The Zarshoran Gold mine in the north west of Iran was carefully curated as the site for the case study. The hypothesis was tested in two parts. The first was to find the best dump site for these tailings. Secondly, the preferred site was determined using the TOPSIS method, which utilised weights and specifications to categorise and rank prospective zones. The results proved that TOPSIS was a capable technique in determining the environmental degradation when contemplating between alternatives in the EIA process. This allows mining companies to be more cognisant of the resilience of their tailing dam.

The construction of new tailing dams is costly and time consuming. It does not alleviate the shortfalls of the current infrastructure and will take years before results are seen; in which time substantial harm to our environment will persist. Is there a better and more effective way to manage tailings?

Clean Mining, a part of Clean Earth Technologies, has the solution to wipe out harmful tailings through a non-toxic, non-flammable and water-soluble gold recovery reagent. Without the use of cyanide as the primary means of leaching gold, the mineral processing technology employed yields less hazardous tailings and even has the potential to eliminate tailings dams. Compared to traditional methods of gold extraction, Clean Mining’s safe and environmentally-responsible solution changes the playing field altogether.

As long as toxic tailings exist, the safety of the environment and local communities will be put in jeopardy. Gold mining companies must eliminate toxic tailings. That is the only way the industry can make amends for inflicting prolonged harm on the environment.

Read the full report and detailed findings here.