Archive for Gold
www.independent.co.uk 13th February 2011
Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa with 4 million people, was built with gold. Today though, the very material that made the city prosper threatens its very foundations. Old gold mines more than a century old have gradually been filling with ground water since their final decommissioning about three years ago. With the closure of the mines, the last water pump maintaining the water levels was switched off. The water then started seeping into the abandoned 1000 foot pits at a rate of 50ft a month and they are now so full that they threaten to overflow into the city itself. The problem, however, is with how the water has reacted with the exposed minerals in the mines. Chemical reactions with rocks that formed 2.8 billion years ago has produced a cocktail of harmful substances from sulphuric acid to toxic heavy metals and radioactive elements. “The threat of acid water decanting from old mine workings is a real and present danger. It poses a threat to our economy, environment, health and history,” noted Terence McCarthy, a professor of geosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand. Already hippos in a nearby wildlife refuge have gone blind due to, experts claim, acidic water run-off. Also, fish are dying in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Acid pools have been reported in the outer areas of Johannesburg since 2002 and further flooding will affect house basements and even overflow onto the streets unless action is taken immediately. The government has agreed that it is an important issue but has not, as yet, dedicated itself to any solution.
www.wsj.com 2nd December 2010
Major retailers in the US including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. are fighting against a new federal law that forces them to reveal whether store-goods contain minerals from war-torn central Africa. Metals such as gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo have been blamed of prolonging conflict by giving rebel groups an accessible source of income. The requirement, which is part of the Dodd-Frank financial law passed in July this year, forces the retailers who use such minerals to prove that no part of their acquisition benefits rebel groups. Those companies that verify the source of their materials can bear the label “DRC Conflict Free”. Those that don’t may continue selling but face public embarrassment. Major retailers, such as Wal-Mart, sell private-label goods made by other companies so the retailer claims it should be exempt from the law as it has no direct control over the manufacturing process. Other companies have complained that sometimes it is very difficult to ascertain where raw materials come from due to the high number of intermediaries involved. Others have stated that it is also difficult to know who controls transit routes in central Africa as territory is in constant flux. The law, which had bipartisan support in Congress, is an attempt by the US government to bring corporate pressure on to rebel finances. Critics have long claimed that the 15 year conflict has received little attention from the West, resulting in $185 million being raised in 2008 alone for rebel groups selling the four minerals to western markets.