Humans & Gold: A Storied History

For over 5,000 years, gold has been valued for emotional, cultural, and financial reasons. It is one of only seven metals used by humans since antiquity. Gold’s unique properties – scarcity, malleability, ductility, resistance to corrosion, inert to most chemical reactions, and high electrical conductivity – make it highly valuable and the most common sought-after element.

If represented as a solid cube, all gold mined in human history is dwarfed by the average parking garage found in any metro downtown area. This footprint is significantly small compared to the land footprint required to mine the rock from which the gold is extracted.

Given the demand for gold and land disturbance required to obtain it, is gold a sustainable mineral?

What Is A Sustainable Mineral?

A sustainable mineral is a way to evaluate the entire life cycle of how a mineral is mined, processed, used in finished products, and to its recycling and/or disposal. Sustainable minerals or sustainable mining are relatively new terms. Given the supply chain pressures of green energy and technological innovations requiring more diverse minerals, mining companies need to maintain sustainable principles. The International Council of Mining & Metals (ICMM) outlines these objectives related to the environment, society, and governance for which their members commit themselves to follow.

The gold mining industry is a leader in establishing and following sustainable mining guidelines. The World Gold Council (WGC) is a market development organization for the gold industry. Following similar principles established by the ICMM and other multinational groups, the WGC established the Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMP).

Responsible Gold Mining Principles

Environmental

Stewardship

Biodiversity

Water, Energy & Climate Change

Social

Safety & Health

Human Rights & Conflict

Labor Rights & Communities

Governance

Ethical Conduct

Understanding Impact

Supply Chain

Leading The Way Forward

One example of how gold mining follows these principles and are managing the impact of its operations is by using the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC). The ICMC focuses exclusively on the safe management of cyanide and cyanidation mill tailings and leach solutions. Companies that use cyanide for gold and/or silver recovery and adopt the Cyanide Code must have their operations independently audited by a third party. If a company meets the ICMC specifications, the audit results are made public to inform stakeholders that a company is a certified operation.

Gold is a strategic and sustainable mineral. Mining will continue to navigate an uphill public perception battle to counter the historical environmental problems of the past. Through responsible recycling and mining, a reliable supply can be maintained for all end users.

Digging Deeper: Sustainability Insights

Responsible Gold Mining Principles

Sustainable Metals & Minerals Guidance

On Gold’s Future Outlook

“Gold is a strategic and sustainable mineral. Mining will continue to navigate an uphill public perception battle to counter the historical environmental problems of the past. Through responsible recycling and mining, a reliable supply can be maintained for all end users.”

Big Rock Staff, Research Analytics

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