Mine or Recycle Gold? We Have an Opinion about Which Is Better

“EPA Allows Mine Company to Pursue Permits Near Alaska Bay,” an article that Becky Bohrer wrote for the Associated Press on May 12, reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of approving a permit for a new copper and gold mine in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska. According to the article, that region produces half of the world’s sockeye salmon. The article reports that the area is also home to a fervent group of environmentalists who vehemently oppose opening a new mine in their pristine area.

This issue could well become a pitched battle. On their side of the disagreement, mining companies think it would be very positive to open a new and productive mine. They even view the new mine as a breakthrough for their industry, which they feel has suffered from overly stringent restrictions during the years when Barack Obama was in office. 

But from their side of the disagreement, environmentalists are worried that the apparent loosening of environmental restrictions under the new Trump administration is likely to open Alaska to a wave of new, less regulated mining that will endanger their way of life, wildlife, and more.

Mining excavator. Image courtesy of Alaska Miners Association

Mining excavator. Image courtesy of Alaska Miners Association

Beyond Politics

If you are a regular reader of the Specialty Metals blog, you know that we are only interested in providing information and advice about recycling precious metals. We are not a political blog, nor do we offer opinions on political issues. 

That explains why we will not take either side in this developing controversy. What we will do, however, is offer some observations from our perspective as a top refiner and recycler of gold and other precious metals

Mining Is a Dirty Business 

Even modern mines that use the most environmentally responsible technologies to extract ores from the earth still cause a lot more environmental harm than recycling does. Even the cleanest of mines produce thermal pollution that warms the temperatures in surrounding watersheds. Mines produce byproducts that pile up and pollute surrounding soil. They also burn diesel and other petroleum-based fuels that pollute the air.

Although recycling processes are not 100% pollution-free, they are far cleaner than mining. Refining gold and other precious metals releases some thermal energy (heat) into the air. In addition, small amounts of some chemicals in the form of gas can be released into the atmosphere, even though a modern precious metals refinery like ours employs the most advanced equipment to keep those emissions to a minimum. 

And then we come to some other compelling reasons why recycled gold does less harm to the world than mined gold does. One of the biggest is that underage, abused miners are not employed to recycle gold, as they are to mine gold. Another is that companies that refine precious metals, like ours, are not owned or operated by criminal cartels or corrupt foreign governments, as gold mines sometimes are in third-world countries. 

Of course, many of those objections will not apply to the new Bristol Bay mine if it opens. It will be a modern mine that will be designed to minimize pollution. It will not be owned by unscrupulous people, and the people who work at it will not be child workers.

But is it a good idea to begin to open new mines in pristine areas? Or better to refine and recycle gold from old gold that was mined decades, or even centuries ago?

Our Question to You . . . 

Whether or not you believe that gold mining should be allowed in areas that were previously protected by the EPA and other agencies, wouldn’t it still be better to continue recycling gold from scrap and other sources, rather than mining it from the earth?

We urge you to think about this issue, and to continue to recycle gold. If you have questions or if you have gold you would like to profit from, we invite you to call us at 800-426-2344 to discuss your options.

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