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December 7, 2005

The cost of gold

I think anyone would choose to own a ring made of gold over a ring of steel. It is just well known that gold is valuable and is priced to reflect its higher value. Though they understand the increased value they do not understand why gold is so cotly. In class we dicussed how massive the amounts of waste are formed through the extraction of gold. It amazed me how much work went into retrieving and refining gold, and the lecture helped me respect and value it more. What I did not learn from class is what the cost of gold fully encompasses. Through an article in the Minnesota Daily entitled, "Film Triggers discussion over Choropampa Case," by Emma Carew, I was made aware of a very controversial issue facing the United States and Peru concerning gold. The problem lies within an accident that spilled over 150 kilograms of mercury, a byproduct of gold mining, near a village in Peru. The spill caused more than 300 people in the area to contract mercury poisoning. The inhabitants of the vilage are filing a lawsuit in the United States demanding retribution for the damages. This type of lawsuit has occured before but has never been successful. Brad Karkkainen, a professor of environmental law, said that if the case is won it will be the "first time foreign plaintiffs have been able to hold a U.S. based corporation responsible in U.S. courts for environmental harm." Not only does the mercury spill affect the people in the area, it also is detrimental to the environment. A government published fact sheet regarding mercury stated that mercury is, " Concentrations of Mercury in fish and wildlife are a risk to wildlife," and also explained how the accumulation of mercury thorugh the food chain results in many environmental problems. (1) The spill of mercury degraded the land by polluting it and harmed the people, so someone needs to bear the cost of the problem.This event raises an important issue, is gold worth the cost both economically, environmentally, and socially, and also who should pay for these added problems? I thought those questions corresponded well with our recent lecture on environmental problems and the question over whether to internalize the costs of those problems. Our pollution due to the extraction of gold harms the human needs of those who live in the area, so I think we should bear the cost of the results. An alternative view beleives that the country in which the problem occured should bear the burden of the results. Many countried in which we mine are not economically able to bear the cost of cleaning up pollution problems. The developing countries rely heavily on our mining and other natural resources for their economy, and thus have an increased dependance on us. We should not expect them to pay for the problems we induce in their country. I think the United States needs to pay for the mercury spill clean up and also for the medical problems it created for the local people. It is important to try and attribute to the reputability of our country and stand behind good business practices including admitting when we have created a problem and finding a way to fix it.

1. United States. Geological Survey. Mercury in the Environment. October, 2000. 07 Dec. 2005.

Posted by at December 7, 2005 4:39 PM | 2. In the News