The coronavirus pandemic negatively affected different industries and sectors across the globe. However, it also led to a few positive impacts, such as the massive surge in the demand for gold, which was in a way fueled by panic. Gold has often been used as a store of value.
This precious metal is considered to be safe haven in unstable times, which could explain why investors prefer stocking up on bullion instead of high-risk assets when there’s economic turbulence.
During the pandemic last year, the price of gold rose by 40%, which was good news for miners and traders in the mineral industry.
However, the impact of this gold rush on the environment is yet to be examined in detail, especially its effect on the Amazon, which is home to more than 3 million species. Mining and extraction of gold in this biodiversity hot spot not only endangers the health of Indigenous people and local communities but also that of the creatures and living things in the area, especially if the metal is extracted in an unsafe and unsustainable way.
When landscapes in the Amazon are cleared for mining purposes, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere from the soil and the trees, which store about five years worth of manmade carbon emissions. Changing the landscape also impedes the ability of the Amazon to modulate global weather patterns.
In the past few years, gold mining has led to about 10% of deforestation in the Amazon.
So, how can we make gold mining in the Amazon more sustainable? Here are several suggestions.
- Through the regulation of garimpos
Garimpos are small-scale, surface gold mines in the Amazon, which produce roughly 20% of the total global supply of gold. Minimizing the effect of these mines while addressing the economic and social development of local communities could help regulate this informal sector, which offers employment to about 200,000 individuals in the area.
A good way to do this would be to find a way in which these mines can operate sustainably in the system, which would enable miners to limit their effects on their environment and keep their livelihood.
- Phasing out the use of mercury
Mercury, is a toxic metal that can cause neurological and other disorders in wildlife and people, and is usually used to sift gold from rock sediment in unsustainable mining. Eliminating the use of this metal in mining operations may help make those operations become more sustainable. Official authorities should consider offering incentives for small-scale and artisanal miners, as this may encourage mining operations to invest in mercury-free technologies.
The application of these measures and other policies that may be drawn up is key to ensuring that sustainable and responsible practices are observed while mining, not only in the Amazon but around the world.
Luckily, mining companies such as Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) have expressed interest in taking part in cleaning up the land contaminated by uranium mines, which used to operate during the Cold War. Such undertakings show that mining companies are conscious about the need to conduct their activities sustainably, which augurs well for the future of our planet.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) are available in the company’s newsroom at http://ibn.fm/UUUU
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