September 15-21 is National Pollution Prevention Week. TheEnvironmental Protection Agency has some great information on how to prevent pollution in everyday life here.
There are diverse ways that humans pollute the environment. TheScientific American lists the top 10 causes of pollution in the world here. One of the top polluters is the subject of our Daily Snippet:
Artisanal gold mining is one of the top polluters in the world.
Artisanal gold mining is usually done by individual and small operations around the world. These mining operations utilize a number of techniques that are harmful to the environment, including adding mercury to the process to extract the gold. According to the EPA, modern industrial gold mining, like those operating in Nevada, no longer add mercury to the process. However, mercury is often already inside the ore where ever there is gold, especially in Nevada.
During the extraction process, the gold ore is heated up to separate the gold from other material. During this process mercury is released into the air, which is a serious toxin and a problem for humans and the environment. Fortunately mining companies in Nevada have done a lot to reduce the amount of mercury released into the air.
Mercury from Nevada goldmines is regulated by the Nevada Mercury Air Emissions Control Program.
There are some sites in Nevada still considered toxic from older mining practices. “The Carson River Superfund Site is the only site in Nevada listed on the Superfund National Priorities List (the list of the nation’s worst toxic waste sites). The site includes mercury-contaminated soils, sediments, fish and wildlife over more than a 50 mile length of the Carson River, beginning near Carson City, Nevada. Contamination at the site is a legacy of the Comstock mining era of the late 1800s, when mercury was imported to the area for processing of gold and silver ore mined from the “Comstock Lode.”