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Greener Gold Miners on the Rise

For many, gold is nicknamed the ‘yellow metal’, for its unique colour. Such a resilient shine comes at a cost to the planet, however. Like many commodities, gold must be extracted from the surface of the earth as part of an energy-intensive process, emitting carbon and other pollutants in the process.

Such an impact isn’t immediately obvious when you buy gold from a reputable seller. That being said, gold is less polluting than commodities such as oil, coal and natural gas. We burn hydrocarbons for fuel, with profound impacts on the air we breathe. Gold, on the other hand, is extracted from the earth, but unless it is moved around a lot, it simply rests in one place, gaining value over time, with minimal emissions. As the National Geographic wrote in 2012: “Though we depend on energy commodities such as coal or natural gas, we have no national dependence on gold. We just have a penchant for it.”

Gold is sought not for the energy it produces, but for the intrinsic value we believe it to hold, based on historical prices and economic sentiment. Mining for oil and other hydrocarbons persists due to a seemingly insatiable demand for energy, but demand for gold can wax and wane depending on the movement on gold prices themselves. Gold miners have a definite impact on the environment, but they are also becoming aware of it, to the point where they’re moving to become more compliant with the UN’s own Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Green miners dig deep

We can’t give an exact year when people first started mining gold from below the earth’s surface, but we can tell roughly which century it became a booming industry, due to the presence of specially crafted gold items in well-preserved places of great historical value. For example, the existence of gold treasure in the Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria suggests that people in Eastern Europe were actively mining gold or at the very least importing it from elsewhere roughly 7,000 years ago.

If you time-travelled back to some of the first examples of gold mining, the methods used would have seemed rudimentary. Hydraulic techniques would have been employed, helping extract seams of gold from loose sedimentary rock. Techniques evolved over time, and civilisations demonstrated their great wealth through using gold as currency and decoration. By the 19th century, the Americas and Australia became the stage for an intense scramble for fresh supplies of gold, during the so-called ‘Gold Rush’ era.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and gold production is an energy-intensive industry. Global production was estimated to be 3,200 metric tonnes in 2020, but that wasn’t the only thing being produced by the world’s gold mines. For every troy ounce of gold, it was estimated that 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent were released into the atmosphere.

Encouragingly, gold miners haven’t been carrying on their arduous task regardless of the consequences. The World Gold Council has been taking active steps to encourage a change in behaviour from the top down. In September 2019, they announced the launch of their Responsible Gold Mining Principles (RGMPs), 51 rules for miners to abide by, helping them clear up their act. For example, the RGMPs range from ensuring greater diversity when it comes to hiring mining crews to better water management, as well as ways of reducing carbon footprints across the board. The RGMPs are designed to help mines move into lockstep with one another to make good on the UN’s SDGs, which are intended to be met by 2030.

When the World Gold Council launched its RGMPs, it revealed specifically what mines could do to keep carbon emissions low, while still delivering tonnes of gold uninterrupted. One particular mine, the Newmont Goldcorp-run Borden mine, went down in history as the world’s first all-electric underground mine. Recent decades have seen an emphasis on quantity, extracting large volumes of gold with little consideration for the environment or the working conditions of some of those tasked with extracting it. Now, quality is the key component, with consumers showing an interest in whether gold is responsibly produced.

Valcambi’s green gold

Analysis from Wood Mackenzie suggests actions taken by gold miners by 2030 could be sufficient to ensure that the industry contributes to efforts stopping global temperatures rising higher than two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. One of the greatest factors helping the sector decarbonise the most is that some of the most carbon-intensive mines are expected to go offline by the late 2020s, but mine life extensions may need to be mitigated to keep with the two-degree climate target.

Valcambi is a Swiss gold producer aware of the growing demand for more environmentally friendly sources of gold, and it has obliged by beginning to produce its ‘Green Gold’ range. Here at the Gold Bullion Company, we stock a number of Green Gold 20g bars, which have a fineness of 999.9, or near-purity. Based in Balerna, Switzerland, Valcambi produces Green Gold bars in a distinctive green casing, with certification to prove the veracity of origin. The bars are refined, assayed and manufactured, protecting the human rights of mining crews, while maintaining environmental standards and policies, which are supervised independently.

That means the workforce producing each bar is paid a fair wage, and great care is taken to protect their health and safety, while ensuring a minimal impact to the planet during extraction. It’s a gold bar unlike any other, and a tangible sign of more sustainably produced gold products to come. Buying into green gold is an investment in the future of sustainability. To learn more about this exciting new path towards sustainability for the industry, get in touch with us today and see what can be gained from buying green gold.

Copyright: zentilia

Article Last Updated: Friday, November 19, 2021