Home > Global Finance, History, Indian Economy, Politics, Uncategorized > The Real Price of Gold — National Geographic Magazine

The Real Price of Gold — National Geographic Magazine


The Real Price of Gold — National Geographic Magazine; Photograph by Randy Olson

The Real Price of Gold — National Geographic Magazine; Photograph by Randy Olson

In all of history, only 161,000 tons of gold have been mined, barely enough to fill two Olympic-size swimming pools. More than half of that has been extracted in the past 50 years. Now the world’s richest deposits are fast being depleted, and new discoveries are rare. Gone are the hundred-mile-long gold reefs in South Africa or cherry-size nuggets in California. Most of the gold left to mine exists as traces buried in remote and fragile corners of the globe.

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), there are between 10 million and 15 million so-called artisanal miners around the world, from Mongolia to Brazil. Employing crude methods that have hardly changed in centuries, they produce about 25 percent of the world’s gold and support a total of 100 million people. It’s a vital activity for these people—and deadly too.

At the other end of the spectrum are vast, open-pit mines run by the world’s largest mining companies. Using armadas of supersize machines, these big-footprint mines produce three-quarters of the world’s gold. They can also bring jobs, technologies, and development to forgotten frontiers.

Gold mining, however, generates more waste per ounce than any other metal, and the mines’ mind-bending disparities of scale show why: These gashes in the Earth are so massive they can be seen from space, yet the particles being mined in them are so microscopic that, in many cases, more than 200 could fit on the head of a pin.

Even at showcase mines, such as Newmont Mining Corporation’s Batu Hijau operation in eastern Indonesia, where $600 million has been spent to mitigate the environmental impact, there is no avoiding the brutal calculus of gold mining. Extracting a single ounce of gold there—the amount in a typical wedding ring—requires the removal of more than 250 tons of rock and ore. Lured by the benefits of operating in the developing world—lower costs, higher yields, fewer regulations—Newmont has generated tens of thousands of jobs in poor regions. But it has also come under attack for everything from ecological destruction to the forced relocation of villagers.

India produces very little gold of its own, but its citizens have hoarded up to 18,000 tons of the yellow metal—more than 40 times the amount held in the country’s central bank. (via The Real Price of Gold — National Geographic Magazine).

The important points …

The poor condition of the workers who produce the ore from which gold is extracted.

The production of gold in the last 50 years is equal to half of total production in mankind’s entire history.

Blaming India for high gold consumption.

The missing points …

India has the largest reserves of gold in the world – but has never been a significant producer except when British colonialists used ‘captive’ Indian labour to extract gold from the Champion Reef in Kolar Gold Fields during the 1875-1925 period, when a few tons hundred tons were extracted.

But India has the largest reserves of gold. How were these reserves acquired? Trade, labour, output, products.That is how.

Not loot – like the Anglo Saxon reserves. Not genocide – like in the cases of Canada, Australia or USA. Not slavery like in South African Apartheid regime, or in Ghana, Peru.

It is this lack of slavery in India, which stopped India from becoming a gold producer – ever, in history.

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  1. pochp
    December 22, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Eyeopening indeed. The picture of the slaves alone makes you want to start a revolution.
    I was reminded of a book I read which alleges that since the earlier centuries in Europe, children were being used as slaves in producing fake antiques. They were forced to use their bare hands in sanding woods (best method) until they were bleeding and were forced to continue still.

  2. luis
    January 9, 2009 at 4:17 am

    hey they’re not slaves – they’re people now that picture is recent slavrey is over …

  3. Mike
    March 14, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Luis, please refrain from insulting people about being uneducated if you are unable to use the language correctly yourself. As for your foolish assertion that slavery no longer exists, I can provide you with plentiful statistics showing otherwise. Slavery, while insignificant compared to the last century, is still thriving. So please, before you force your @#&* (views) on the rest of the world, research your facts.

    As for the authors “facts” about the US and Canadian reserves obtained through genocide…I’m not exactly sure where you find these fascinating little tidbits of anti-West propaganda. While I am sure they have obtained a good chunk of it via questionable methods, it was surely not through genocide. Remember, gold will continue to be mined until the demand drops, and seeing how India and southeast Asia in general are the biggest consumers, their demand does help to keep it afloat, though blaming them is rather @&*@ (weak) since they do not force these inhumane conditions on the workers.

  4. March 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Mike /POCHP – My apologies for a bad job on moderation. Luis’ comments are definitely in bad taste and out of line – now moderated.
    Coming to the other important issue. The “authors “facts” about the US and Canadian reserves obtained through genocide”.

    There are only about 30,00 Australian aborigines left. There are a few hundred thousands of Red Indians left. African population in ante-bellum USA was an estimated 25% of US population. Now it is down to less than 13%. Now if this is not systematic extermination of a race, then what is?

    The question of slavery and colonialism are the Elephants in the Western History Room – which the West has successfully, evaded and silenced dissent with greater din, on other irrelevant topics and a trail of red herrings. Western ‘historians and academics have done an excellent job by in making slavery and colonialism invisible. I have embedded some links – which give you some more “inconvenient” data.

    The focus and memory of slavery in USA is more recent and egregious – and hence greater examination of that has happened. But the genocide of slaves in Europe has followed the same pattern.
    African American population in the US at the time of the Civil War, was roughly 25%. It has now declined to roughly 12 %. Where did the other half of the slave population disappear.

    One – As these posts point out, this was accomplished, for instance, by poor health care.

    Secondly – as these posts also point out, this was done by shipping these ‘liberated’ slaves to Liberia, Sierra Leone (from England).

    Third – as another post points out, it was significantly higher levels of imprisonment of the African Americans in the US and in modern times, of Muslims in the UK.

    Fourth – were forced migrations – like death of Native Americans in the Trail of Tears.

    Fifth – was economic dislocations, which exposed the dispossessed and oppressed to these economic vagaries, without the State support that the privileged White populations were provided. An empirical example of this is pointed out in another post, which shows the higher death rates during mass privatizations in Soviet Russia. Or the targetting of Roma Gypsies in Europe even today.

    Sixth – was the kidnapping of children and breaking of family structures – like in the case of Roma Gypsies and the extermination of Australian Aborigines.

    For a prospective genocide planner, Hitler’s biggest mistake was his ‘over-enthusiasm’. He should have followed the footsteps of his other European predecessors – where the genocides were done with less fan fare, in smaller sized chunks, over a longer time frame.

    Same difference!

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