Ithaca Environment

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Price of Gold

In the New York Times

ELKO, Nev. - Just outside the chasm of North America's biggest open-pit gold mine there is an immense oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert. It is an idyllic and isolated spot where migratory birds often alight for a stopover. But hardly anything is natural about it.

This is water pumped from the ground by Barrick Gold of Toronto to keep its vast Goldstrike mine from flooding, as the gold company, the world's third largest, carves a canyon 1,600 feet below the level of northern Nevada's aquifer...

Barrick says the effects of its pumping will last at most a few decades. But government scientists estimate it could take 200 years or more to replenish the groundwater that it and neighboring mine companies have removed, with little public attention or debate, as they meet soaring consumer demand for jewelry and gold's price tops $500 an ounce.

Ashley Gilbertson for the New York Times

A pond in the Nevada desert holds water contaminated by mining operations. Major mine companies have pumped out billions of gallons from an aquifer.


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