Gold rush, mercury legacy: Small-scale mining for gold has produced long-lasting toxic pollution, from 1860s California to modern Peru

By Jacqueline Gerson

Gold is everywhere in modern life, from jewelry to electronics to smartphones. The global electronics industry alone uses 280 tons annually. And that demand keeps growing.

But most people know little about the environmental impacts of gold mining. About 15% of world gold production is from artisanal and small-scale mining in over 70 countries throughout Asia, Africa and South America. These operations employ 10 to 19 million workers. They often are poorly policed and weakly regulated.

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