Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
WETLAB’s Work Critical as Price of Gold Continues to Grow

It’s no secret – economic turmoil has sent the price of comparatively secure gold skyrocketing – with the precious metal fetching over $1,700 an ounce.

Gold’s S&P-500 stock index is at its highest since 1988, according the Reuters.

“Gold’s safe-haven allure has attracted investors fleeing the risk of debt crisis contagion in Europe and slowing global growth,” according the the Aug. 11 Reuters article. “Prices of cash gold have risen as much as 21 percent since the end of June.”

And that’s good news for Northern Nevada, where Elko has become the primary gold-producing region in the United States.

But all that demand on gold requires caution from an environmental standpoint.

Gold mining is an environmentally-challenging task, and both our state-of-the-art Sparks laboratory and Elko office work with our mining clients to make sure they stay in compliance with environmental regulations, operating in a clean and environmentally sound manner.

And that’s important, given what it takes to mine for gold.

According to mining watchdog group Earthworks, mining the gold for a standard 18-karat wedding band leaves behind 20 tons of ore and waste rock.

Disturbing that much earth can lead to toxic runoff from a mine if not properly controlled – long-buried chemicals and minerals exposed to air can produce acids and leach toxic metals like sulfuric acid and arsenic.

Extracting gold from the ore can release mercury as well, and some processes use cyanide to complete gold extraction. Cyanide is obviously very toxic on its own, but can also degrade into byproducts like nitrates that can contaminate groundwater.

If those toxins aren’t properly monitored and captured, that’s bad news for the environment and anybody using water down stream.

That’s why it’s critical for us at WETLAB to work with mines to track water and soil quality, to make sure that this new gold rush doesn’t leave any negative impact – just a positive impact on the economy of northern Nevada.

To share your thoughts, go to our  Facebook page and post a comment.