We have yet to achieve an ethical and sustainable mine-to-market supply chain despite the increasing pressure towards the mining industry.
Although mining companies are expected to adhere to the rehabilitation and environmental codes, violation of the law is common. In addition to the well-known issues from the large-scale mining operations, an estimated 80% of the small-scale mining operations globally are illegal and unmonitored. (ref)
Environmental impacts of mining can occur at local, regional and global scales, which result in water and soil contamination, human health damage, wildlife destruction and permanent land obliteration
Unethical community treatments and labour conditions
There are familiar ethical issues involved in the mining industry such as extremely dangerous working conditions, slavery, child labour and human trafficking. In South Africa alone in 2015, hundreds of workers died due to collapsing mines, gas explosions and turf wars between the criminal syndicates that have seized control of the mines. (ref)
Mining also changes the social dynamics and causes community division. Developing communities are potentially exposed to harassment by the mine or beneficiary bodies. Local residents are often forcibly displaced to make way for the mine. Most miners are trapped in cycles of poverty leading to community impoverishment. Photo (ref)
Water sources and land contamination
Mining operations destroy landscapes and create a huge amount of heavy metal and toxic waste. Heavy metals released such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and cobalt are highly toxic even in minor quantities.
Iron sulphide found in conjunction with valuable metals and gemstones causes acid mine drainage, releasing acidic water from the mines which can be 20 to 300 times more acidic than acid rain and can burn human skin and kill aquatic life. The acidic water drains into surface water and seeps into groundwater. Photo (ref)
Surface mining destroys natural land characteristics such as forests, mountain tops, lakes and riverbanks. Underground mining triggers sinkhole formation, which is detrimental to urban development and wildlife. Sediments released through soil erosion cause stream bed smothering increasing the risk of flash flooding. Tree roots diversion from deeper soil layers to avoid the contaminated zone increases the risk of landslide.
Remediation efforts do not always ensure that the area is restored and species might be lost permanently. Photo (ref)
Human health damage
Plants and animals accumulate heavy metals from the water and soil, leading to human intake through consumption. Heavy metals cause neurological and kidney damage. In 2019, an investigation carried out in the US found that 95% of baby foods tested contain toxic chemicals that lower babies’ IQ. (ref)
Heavy metals and toxic chemicals from the mine can enter the human body through food, water, air and absorption through the skin. Inhalation of the airborne particles causes respiratory system damage.
Huge areas of natural habitat are destroyed during the mine construction and exploitation, forcing animals to leave the site. The high concentration of toxic chemicals and water acidity poses a survival threat to aquatic life and species dependent on them for food. In Peru, it is thought that illegal gold mining destroys 50,000-100,000 square meters of national protected rainforest areas each day. (link)
Acid mine drainage coats the hippos at Hippo Dam at the Krugersdorp Game Reserve. Photo (ref)
At Juvetti, we opted out of mining. Our jewellery is made from gemstones that are made in the renewable energy powered lab and 100% recycled gold. Join us to protect the beautiful world for ourselves and the next generation.