young gold miner in Indonesia. Photo from borneomercury.com
The price of gold hit a record high today, reaching $1,216.75 an ounce in Europe. What does this have to do with pollution? Well, in this age of globalization, everything is connected in some way, isn’t it? In the case of gold, the pollution connection, so to speak, is to the mercury-contaminated fish we find on our plates.
The trail leads us all the way to poor communities half a world away, where artisanal gold mining provides a valuable source of income. Millions of men, women and children toil in mines using mercury to extract tiny pieces of gold that would otherwise be too small to recover. The toxic mercury escapes into the air, travels and drops into oceans and seas worldwide, poisoning the seafood supply.
Now if mercury released thousands of miles away can affect us here in the U.S., imagine the damage it does to the miners and their families? There are 600,000 child gold miners around the world – yes, 600,000. What is their future? Now that gold is more valuable than ever, who knows if miners will be pressured to find more gold using this cheap, fast, easy and deadly method?
And now for some good news. What if I told you that for the price of one ounce of gold, you could buy over 240 devices – retorts – at just $5 a piece – to recapture the mercury released? Each retort used reduces the level of poisoning. It is not a perfect solution but it is cheap and effective.
So this holiday season, take our $5 a day holiday challenge. We are hoping to raise $200,000 to match a $200,000 grant from Blacksmith Institute’s Board.
Imagine what $400,000 can do. It can buy about 328 ounces of gold at today’s prices… or health for millions of miners around the world. And then we can celebrate with a plate of fish.
FACT: The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) estimates that artisanal gold mining results in the release of an estimated 1,000 tons of toxic mercury per year, which constitutes about 30% of the world’s mercury emissions. At least a quarter of the world’s total gold supply comes from artisanal gold mining. (Blacksmith is working with UNIDO’s Global Mercury Project in Senegal, Indonesia, Mozambique and Cambodia.) Read more about the Global Mercury Project.