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November 2, 2011     The Julian News
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November 2, 2011
 

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12 The Julian News EARTH TALK00 Questions & Answers About Our Environment Dear EarthTalk: Most gold mining operations use cyanide to extract gold from surrounding rock. What are the environmental implications of this, and are there alternatives? -- J. Pelton, via e-mail Although "cyanidation"-- the use of a sodium cyanide compound to separate a precious metal from finely ground rock-- has become less common in other forms of mining, it is still the dominant practice in gold mining. Some 90 percent of gold mines around the world employ cyanidation to harvest their loot. "In gold mining, a diluted cyanide solution is sprayed on crushed ore that is placed in piles or mixed with ore in enclosed vats," reports the State Environmental Resource Center (SERC), a project of-the non-profit Defenders of Wildlife. "The cyanide attaches to minute particles of gold to form a water- soluble, gold-cyanide compound from which the gold can be recovered." But of course not all the cyanide gets recovered. Some of it gets spilled, and some is left within mine waste that is often buried underground woefully close to groundwater, leaving neighbors and public health officials worried about its effects on drinking water and on surrounding ecosystems and local wildlife. "Mining and regulatory documents often state that cyanide in water rapidly breaks down in the presence of sunlight into largely harmless substances, such as carbon dioxide and nitrate or ammonia," reports Earthworks, a Washington, DC- based non-profit. "H ovever, cyanide also tends to react readily with many other chemical elements and is known to form, at a minimum, hundreds of different compounds." While many of these compounds are less toxic than the original cyanide, says Earthworks, they can still persist in the environment and accumulate in fish and plant tissues, wreaking havoc on up the food chain. In 2000, a breach in a tailings (mining waste) dam at a gold mine in Baia Mare, Romania resulted in the release of 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide-rich waste into the surrounding watershed. Nearly all aquatic life in nearby waters died, while drinking water supplies were cut off for some 2.5 million people. Some 90 percent of gold miJ "cyanidation." the use of a separate the gold from finely Romania in 2000, the accide, meters of cyanide-rich waste in aquatic life in nearby waters at million people. p/ CUSTOM HOMES DECKING DOORS WINDOWS • ELECTRICAL SERVICE • HARDWOOD FLOORING • • GRADING • PAINTING • REMODELING • SEPTIC SYSTEMS • TILE WORK • WATER SYSTEMS • WELL DRILLING • General Contractor Over 35 Years Experience Lawrence Noble, Owner Julian Resident for 27 years State Lic.602654 Drilling I SERVICE Complete Water California Conltactor Systems tic. #4559e9 Sales & Repair "Your Complete Water Systems Company Since t981" 765-1246 • 789-9976 P. O, Box 17t9o Julian, CA 92036 Pumps/Well Contractor Lic, 702741 • Submersible Pumps - Booster Pumps - Storage Tanks • Ozone Water Treatment New It˘llett$ end R˘Irs z6s-osoz Genera/Contractor New Construction Room Additions Decks Remodels 760.765" 2363 PO Box 1342 JULIAN, CA 92036 For over 26 years our dad has bee n taking care of back country water problems, big or small. Call our dad today and eliminate the problems! N00N00r, Concrete - Foundations - Retaining Walls • INC. License "PZ049P !:!!!i In the wake of this accident, gold miners around the world have been taking steps to deal with tailings in a safer manner, through the use of special systems designed to prevent cyanide or its breakdown compounds from escaping into the environment. But such precautions at present are only voluntary. Regulators in the U.S. the third largest gold producer after South Africa and Australia don't require mine operators to monitor cyanide and its breakdown compounds in nearby groundwater and water es around the world employ ˘odium cyanide compound to round rock. At a gold mine in ztal release of 100,000 cubic o the local watershed killed all ,d cut off water supplies for 2.5 oto by Kracos, courtesy Flickr bodies, so no one knows just how big a problem might be. One promising alternative to using cyanide in gold mines =s the Haber Gold Process, a non- toxic extraction system that tests have shown can result in more gold recovery over a shorter period than cyanidation. Another alternative is YES Technologies' biocatalyzed leaching process which proponents say is 200 times less toxic than cyanide. But with cyanidation well-entrenched in the industry and regulators looking the other way, these alternatives face an uphill battle in gaining widespread adoption. CONTACTS: State Environmental Resource Center (SERC), www. serconline.org; Earthworks, www.earthworksaction.org; Haber Gold Process, www. habercorp.com/index.php?id=23; YES Technologies' Cyanide-free Biocatalyzed Leaching, www. yestech.com/toch/goldl .htm. EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www. November 2, 2011 00orts Press Player of the Year award? l 5. In the 2010-1 season, Boston goaltender Tim Thomas set an NHL record for save percentage with a .938. Who had held the mark? 6. When did soccer great Pele play his last official North American Soccer League game? 7. How many championship fights was Joe Louis involved in during his heavyweight boxing 1. Which franchise has won career? the most World Series: between answers onpage 14 emagazme.com). Send questions the Giants or the Pirates? _. ______ _____ to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. 2. Name the first athlete to be I OPEN :SUNDAYS! I Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/ named all-Ivy League in both [-- 11I1--1i;'n€,;.."--'l subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www. baseball and basketball. Il.lfll,˘le, p_ J emagazine.com/trial. 3. Only two NFL players i,,.=..z..:,l have each tallied 10,000 yards I ql Z'='=.V = I receiving with one quarterback. I  I 1 O0 Y'ears Of Name the receivers and the I,,,=---=-D, ,, I quarterback. I z"l Electric Cars 4. When was the last time I "°=---° I before Evan Turner in 2010 that I amona I On Disploy At an Ohio State men's basketball 17613 7R9 132413 I Smithsonian player won The Associated I .......... I from the AP The history of electric cars is going on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History with two "electrifying cars" from the early 20th century. A 1904 Columbia electric runabout went on display E"ICTRIC [ Thursday with'a 1913 Ford Model T touring car. The cars and other CII objects, including a battery charger for General Motors' EV'I electric car from the 1990s, are on view through January. The Columbia was the best- selling U.S. car at the turn of the century, while the Model T was a gasoline car equipped with an electric starter and electric headlights. A rare EV1 was displayed in the past. It was pulled from view in 2006, weeks before the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" was released. In 2010 all electric powered vehicles were once again marketed with the Chevy "Volt" and Nissan "Leaf." CONTRACTO.RS Contractor rtG  COMPANY, INC  ,,General Contracting" License #640628 - Bonded & Insured • New Construction cost + 10% • Kitchen Specialist • Home Services: Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Installation. 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