Dirty Metals

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Mining, Communities and the Environment

About this report:

The purpose of this report is to show you how much metal there is in your life — from the gold in your jewelry to the aluminum in your automobile — and to explain how it was produced.

If you live in the United States, your annual consumption of “newly-mined” minerals (as opposed to those produced from recycling) comes to 21 metric tons — just over 57 kilos a day.

This report will show you what lies behind that stupendous lode of copper and tantalum, gold and platinum. We’ll explain how the mining of these and other metals damages landscapes, pollutes water, and poisons people. We’ll show you why modern, industrial mining is one of the world’s most destructive industries. And finally, we’ll show you what we as consumers and concerned citizens can do to clean it up.

You can also receive a printed copy of this publication by mail. Please contact Hilary at 202-887-1872×101 or hlewis@earthworks.org to request your copy.


For More Information

By clicking the links below you can read the report by section.

Errata (Updated 10 May 2004)

  • Page 4, Paragraph 4
    Change: “In 2001, metals mines in the United States produced roughly 1,300tons of toxic waste” 
    To: “In 2001, metals mines in the United States produced roughly 1,300,000tons of toxic waste” 
  • Page 7, Paragraph 5
    Change: “In an effort at remediation, the government has begun dredging the river to remove about 20 million tons of sediment per year.”
    To: “In an effort at remediation, Ok Tedi Mining Limited, the mine's operator,began dredging the river in the late 1990s to remove about 20 million tons of sediment per year.”
  • Page 10, Paragraph 4
    Change: “And they worry about what's in the dust that blows off the tailingspiles and into their homes.” 
    To: “And they worry about what's in the dust that blows off the leach piles and into their homes.”
  • Page 10, Paragraph 5
    Delete: “The tailings dust is also contaminated with toxic metals.”
  • Page 14, Yellowstone lead text
    Change: “1996: The U.S. government agrees to a land-swap with the company in order to stop the project.”
    To: “1998: The U.S. government agrees to buy out Crown Butte's mining claims for $65 million in order to stop the project.”
  • Page 14, Paragraph 2
    The company identified as “BHP-Billiton” should be “BHP.” (BHP and Billiton merged in 2001 to form BHP-Billiton.)
  • Page 29, Paragraph 4
    Change: “The 3,300 hectare mine had been leaking cyanide into the Alamosa River since its first week of operation”
    To: “The 567 hectare mine had been leaking cyanide into the Alamosa River watershed since its first week of operation”