A few days ago, I mentioned a protest march against the granting of permits in El Salvador to a Canadian gold mining company. The struggle of those persons living near proposed mines who fear the environmental impact of gold mining against the powerful forces of foreign investment interests is likely to be an increasing visible one in El Salvador.
This week the New York Times is running a feature series on the social and environmental impact of worldwide gold mining. The article highlights the forces which will increasingly clash in El Salvador:
The price of gold is higher than it has been in 17 years - pushing $500 an ounce. But much of the gold left to be mined is microscopic and is being wrung from the earth at enormous environmental cost, often in some of the poorest corners of the world.
And unlike past gold manias, from the time of the pharoahs to the forty-niners, this one has little to do with girding empires, economies or currencies. It is almost all about the soaring demand for jewelry, which consumes 80 percent or more of the gold mined today....
Consider a ring. For that one ounce of gold, miners dig up and haul away 30 tons of rock and sprinkle it with diluted cyanide, which separates the gold from the rock. Before they are through, miners at some of the largest mines move a half million tons of earth a day, pile it in mounds that can rival the Great Pyramids, and drizzle the ore with the poisonous solution for years.
The scars of open-pit mining on this scale endure.