Lovers of wildlife will be aghast to learn that gold mining operations contribute to the needless deaths of animals and birds in the world. The cause of their deaths – cyanide.
Since 1887, toxic sodium cyanide has been used in gold mining operations. It remains the primary reagent in use for gold processing today because it allows for the efficient extraction of gold from low-grade ore. And, when tailing dams burst as had happened in many countries, the leaking cyanide has polluted rivers and agricultural lands.
After the animals and birds drink from the contaminated waters and consumed toxic forage, they succumbed. Fish and aquatic invertebrates are particularly sensitive to cyanide exposure too.
There is scant documented literature on the impact of cyanide especially on wildlife deaths. A gap of knowledge exists in monitoring, understanding the causal relationships and managing risks to wildlife from cyanide-bearing waste solutions and tailings.
In Nevada, USA, during 1990 and 1991, 9,512 carcasses were reported of over 100 species (of wildlife), although there was underestimation due to reporting being voluntary.
At Northparkes, Australia, in 1995, it was initially estimated that 100 bird carcasses were presented by mine staff following a tailings incident. When a thorough count was conducted, 1,583 bird carcasses were recorded. Eventually, 2,700 bird deaths were documented over a four-month period.
It is identified that avian deaths are usually undetected and significantly underestimated, leading to a perception that a risk does not exist. As long as cyanide is used, animals, birds and fishes will die eventually.
To save wildlife, wouldn’t it be better to do away with cyanide altogether? There is a safe, non-toxic alternative that is both environmentally and financially sustainable. Clean Mining, part of the Clean Earth Technologies Group, has been working to transform gold production worldwide with a new mineral processing technology that eliminates cyanide in the gold recovery process. This solution replaces toxic cyanide with a non-toxic gold recovery agent, benefiting both human health and the health of the environment.
This revolutionary gold recovery agent offers genuinely transformational change for the industry, setting a new ‘gold standard’ for miners around the world.
With this, cyanide use in gold mining can be a thing of the past and we can save all the wildlife.