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COMMENTARY · 8th January 2012
Merv Ritchie
This should be the originating thought. Why do we do what we do? We know why we plant crops, we know why we mine coal and we know why we drill for oil, we use these products for our survival. Not so for gold so we must ask some serious hard questions.

Gold is mined, melted into large pure blocks called bars, and then stockpiled. Very little is used productively. The largest ever single productive use for gold has been to protect astronauts from space radiation. The Space Shuttles of NASA had approximately 50 kilograms each involved in their construction.

Out of all the gold used every year, only 10 percent is used in any technological manner (mostly electronics). Almost 90% of the annual use of gold is strictly for non productive efforts and this is still a small amount.

Currently there is over 30,000 tonnes of this metal stockpiled as gold bullion bars all across the globe, just sitting, doing nothing.

In approximate terms, the world collects 4000 tonnes of gold every year; 60 percent from mining it and 40 percent from recovering already used gold, ie jewellery.

Half of this gold production is used in making new jewellery. Of the remaining 2000 tonnes almost 40% is poured into molds to make more gold bullion bars (to add to stockpiles) and just over 10 % is used in technological applications. Worldwide, in 2010, only 450 tonnes of gold was used productively and in 2009 technological uses accounted for 400 tonnes of consumption.

One third of the recycled gold could meet the entire worlds technological demand. The current stockpile is greater than twelve years of steady mining to meet a productive demand that is only 25 percent of that volume. Meaning if we only used gold for productive purposes (not jewellery) we would already have over 65 years of suppy.

Although Africa used to be the gold production center this is no longer the case. Mining centers are now spread across the globe on every continent in almost equal production proportions. The usage of gold for jewellery, however, is completely unequal as China, India and the Middle East show off using about 75% of the worlds annual use of gold for jewellery. The North American demand is less than 10%.

The common method of extracting and recovering gold from a full production mine is to mix cyanide with water and the crushed material. Arsenic is also commonly associated with gold recovery and these two poisons generally remain in the environment in waste (tailings) ponds. The Yellowknife gold mining operation, called the Giant Mine, is responsible for destroying most bodies of water in the region for human consumption. Great Slave Lake, the deepest lake in North America and ninth largest in the world is now too polluted with arsenic to drink.

The context is important to relate. The Giant Mine at Yellowknife is recorded as having recovered only 200 tonnes in total.

Two proposed gold mines in British Columbia have published their expected recoverable gold; Prosperity at 5 million oz - 141 tonnes and Galore at 4 million oz – 113 tonnes.

Currently there is 30,000 tonnes already stockpiled and almost 1000 tonnes is being added to this stockpile every year.

Enough jewellery is being recycled every year to meet all the medical and industrial uses of gold by a factor of three.

One has to ask the question. Why do we do what we do? Why do our friends and neighbours wish to participate in these gold mining activities when the only result is the destruction of the habitat. Yes, industrialists will pay them to destroy the environment however there is no net benefit to anyone anywhere; not the industrialists, not the bankers, not the nations, not society or the citizens. There are only two results; bigger and bigger piles of the stuff sitting unused, and a poisoned environment.

This is utter insanity. Why would I accept money from you to poison all my water and land when you have no use for the product taken from my land? This would be as funny as a Monty Python skit if it wasn’t so serious. Just ask the people in Yellowknife. One of the old Giant Mines tailings ponds has recently overflowed into a clean water source the community was hoping to use. Great Slave Lake, which drains into the Mackenzie River continues to be contaminated by the leaching of the arsenic, which was pumped into expired shafts under and around the lake. All for only 200 tonnes of gold, that no one needs.

Can anyone honestly justify this activity? Why we do what we do?

Some of the figures used in this article for approximations and accuracy were derived from the World Gold Council. Others were taken directly from the associated websites.
galore is too expensive to develop
Comment by balthazar on 10th January 2012
I would take a wager that Galore will never be developed as the technical difficulties, aka cost to develop this site are enormous. In addition, the current Business Case is built around 60% copper and 40% gold extraction from that mine. One day the world will realize that the current gold price is ridiculous and Novagold's decision to sell their 50% stake in the project is a sign in this direction. See next chapter from Novagold website :

Maximization of Value of 50%-owned Galore Creek Project

In addition to the spin-out of NovaCopper, the Board of NovaGold has re-iterated its objective to unlock the value of NovaGold's copper assets in order to focus on the Company's flagship Donlin Gold project (please refer to the Press Release dated July 28, 2011). To that end, the Board of NovaGold has decided to explore opportunities to sell all or part of NovaGold's 50% share of the Galore Creek project ("Galore Creek”) located in northwestern British Columbia. Galore Creek is one of the largest known undeveloped copper projects in the world and is located in a first-tier mining jurisdiction. If put into production as contemplated in the recently completed Prefeasibility Study, the Galore Creek mine would be the fourth largest copper mine in North America and the largest in Canada (based on current production figures from industry sources)

In addition, the NTL in its current design is not able to carry the load of all of the proposed mining projects, so the likelihood of having all proposed ones developed is close to Zero. This is in my opinion also the primary reason why a Coaldbed Methane Project will never get developed. This and the opposition by not only the First Nations, but also by any other sane individual. We do not need to develop everything because we can, we should develop what makes sense and some projects don't even make mathematical sense - arithmetic is not an opinion.
Precious to who?
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 9th January 2012
Truthfully I want this answer. Yes it has unique properties and can be very useful but as for value it is completely outside of economic norms. At the real rate of value with the supply and demand figure calculated it is rated at $68/oz. Today however "economists" are predicting it will go up to $5000/oz in the next couple years.

This is truly outrageous for a product we use only for vanity in any real quantity.

It'll never replace copper. It is good in microscopic amounts for tablets etc, but not for wiring. It is far too soft. Copper is the superior product for this.

Nope, other than protection from space radiation it is simply a novelty here on Earth.

If I was to look at the entire subject of resource extraction and the stock piling of the resources along with the destruction of the earth's environment, I could only conclude we are doing it all for a species not from the earth who need the gold to protect themselves from space radiation as they take all our stockpiled resources off of the planet after we killed it for them stockpiling the resources.

It makes sense. Why else would all the CEO's who destroy the environment and poison the people get paid enormous salaries while those who care about people and the environment are volunteers?

Prove me wrong and you win a dinner.

We can do what we do in a responsible manner. Tell me why we don't? Simply because saving the environment isn't cost effective? What lunacy!
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 9th January 2012
When in the world are people going to understand that the earth can't sustain unending economic growth? There are 7 billion people on this earth,and they all want to live the American dream ,which has turned into the American nightmare. You can't continue to exploit the earth and people with out dire consequences. I keep hearing about how we need to sell our oil to keep jobs in Canada. Well lets keep it here for future generations ,just in case nobody comes up with an alternative. The Chinese and India make up over half the population of the planet.If they are so concerned about getting our oil let them use their own ingenuity to find an alternative. The reason the big oil companies need to sell as much oil as fast as possible is because they are afraid that one day there may be an alternative and those poor underpaid CEOs wont be able to collect their outrageous pay cheques. Not because they care if China needs oil or not.By selling oil to China ,how does that benefit the average joe? It will add between 4 and 8 dollars to a barrel of oil, so that means you and I will pay more for our fuel ,pay more for the food we eat because it costs more to get it to my grocer. The vicious cycle never ends. Use your heads people because next it will be a pipeline to transport water to the USA. And one last note,remember that there are not enough people to do the work in this country ,or so they keep telling us. This means more temporary foreign workers who eventually will be allowed to stay . I am not against immigration ,but Stephen Harper has been making it much easier to let Americans come to Canada to work.And with those workers come their ideals, a lot of them come from anti union, states. They can change the whole political landscape of our province and our country. Canada has always been a kinder ,gentler nation, But with Stephen Harper in charge things are changing rapidly and as far as i am concerned not for the better.
Precious metal, not usless metal
Comment by Thomas More on 9th January 2012
Merv, just wanted to provide some clarification. Gold has some very unique characteristics that make it extremely useful and valuable. It is an excellent conductor, ductile, and resistant to chemical attack. Gold would replace copper in most of its applications but the high cost of gold limits it only to a few.
Alternative to what?
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 9th January 2012
Not to be insulting but is that your price to sell out the land, water and air? 7 billion?

10CC wrote a song years ago called "The Wall Street Shuffle" One rhythmical line says, "You can sell your mother, you can bye another". We can not buy more earth, it is limited, finite. This is why the best investment is in property . . .they are not making anymore of it.

Like Gerald Amos wrote; "We are not opposed to development. But we are opposed to stupidity and placing our homelands at terrible risk in order to satisfy the insatiable greed ..."

And Gold is the most useless product every mined except in very small electrical operations. Even the medical uses for it are referred to as nano particulates.

Therefore I surmise from this statement that some people are willing to sell anything for money, even the environment, if the price is high enough.

And this regardless of any benefit to anyone.

And do you really believe the (likely inflated) 7 billion will be spent here?

Even RTA is hiring workers from away for the demolition, the lowest skill labour required!

But that is not the issue, gold is simply not required. The issue is why? Just because we can?

Is the human race that stupid? We will destroy it because we can?

Hey, alternatives? How about growing food? Oh yeah, there is no profit in caring for your family, friends and neighbours.
whats your alternative...Merv.
Comment by Calvin C on 9th January 2012
Gold is primarily the reason that $7 BILLION (approx) is being invested in the Northwest. Im pretty sure Terrace's economy will feel the kickbacks from that. With such a eco-conservative approach to big development...what would you do to con jour up $7 billion in investment that is more suitable to your standards?