Staff Insights

Ticking Toxic Time Bombs: The Hidden Hazard of Gold Tailings Ponds

Gold mining, while a lucrative and age-old industry, leaves behind a less glittering environmental legacy: tailings ponds. These man-made basins are repositories for the slurry of water, chemicals, and leftover minerals from the mining process. Essentially, they are concoctions of waste materials discarded after the valuable parts of ore are extracted. But what exactly is contained in these ponds, and why are they considered ticking toxic time bombs?

What is a Tailings Pond?

A tailings pond is an engineered structure designed to store byproducts of mining operations. In gold mining, ore is crushed and treated with a cocktail of chemicals to extract gold. The residual mixture—comprising water, unrecovered minerals, and a range of chemicals including cyanide and arsenic—is what ends up in tailings ponds. These ponds are typically contained by dams that, if not properly managed, pose significant risks.

What’s in a Tailings Pond?

The contents of tailings ponds are often toxic. Key contaminants include:

Heavy metals: such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which can persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain.

Arsenic and cyanide: used extensively in gold extraction processes and are highly toxic to humans and wildlife.

Sulfides: can generate acid mine drainage, a process where sulfides form sulfuric acid upon contact with air and water, further releasing heavy metals into the environment.

Global Statistics and Concerns

Estimates suggest there are thousands of gold tailings ponds worldwide, each varying in size and containment security. The concern with these ticking time bombs is their instability. Over time, structural failures tend to occur, leading to catastrophic leaks or spills.

According to Global Environmental Solutions, “There exists an estimated 3,500 of these developments worldwide. A big part of the issue with tailings ponds, at least here domestically in North America, is that 39% of them fail. Which, in short, means the leaching of potentially hazardous waste around the infected site, which has the ability to extend even further due to the viscous nature of some of the tailings materials excreted from tailings ponds.”

Death and Devastation 

The environmental impact of a tailings pond failure can be severe and lasting. One notable disaster tragically occurred on August 4, 2014, in central British Columbia, Canada.

A four-square-kilometer-sized tailings pond at the Mount Polley open pit gold and copper mine collapsed, releasing 25 billion liters of toxic sludge, including more than 400 tonnes of arsenic, into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, and Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water and major spawning grounds for sockeye salmon.

The immediate impact was devastating and immediate: the spill inundated rivers and lakes, killed scores of fish, and severely altered the aquatic ecosystem. Long-term environmental impacts include heavy metal contamination of water sources, affecting both drinking water and agricultural irrigation.

While Mount Polley is just one of many examples where these failures lead to widespread contamination and even large-scale human casualties as occurred on November 5, 2015, with the catastrophic collapse of the Fundão tailings dam in Mariana, Brazil. Considered one of the worst environmental disasters in Brazilian history, about 60 million cubic meters of toxic mudflow released into the Doce River, causing widespread destruction. It resulted in the death of 19 people, destroyed entire villages, decimated fish stocks, and devastated local wildlife populations. The spill, besides leaving a long-term scar on the region’s biodiversity and human communities, was carried into the Atlantic Ocean where it entered the greater global ecosystem, where it is impossible to know just what the overall impact was, although it surely isn’t good, to say the least.

It’s not just the local communities that bear witness to the ruinous environmental legacy of gold mining as their surroundings are marred by vast toxic waste repositories; the global ecosystem at large suffers. Gold extraction is a global blight. From small-scale operations to corporate giants, our quest for gold has reshaped the Earth, often with catastrophic environmental outcomes. Our rivers are turned inside out, mountains crumble, and once-pristine landscapes now bear the scars of extraction. This unchecked ambition begets toxic wastelands, poisoning our earth and water, spreading widespread harm and desolation. Yet, in a cruel twist of irony, the vast majority of the gold extracted is buried back underground where it came from, in vaults where it lies dormant, albeit polished.

It’s Time For Change

It’s time to accept the fact that gold does not need to be dug out of the earth to have monetary value. In fact, it’s downright illogical when we already have a National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) certification system that quantifies and certifies the amount of gold resources that are in the earth, and the very system that does that is used worldwide to make mine financing decisions. Stock exchanges demand that companies have these independently audited NI 43-101 gold resource reports in hand before they can open their mouths publicly and share their findings. Literally, the entire geological and financial community globally relies on them as there are no higher degrees of certainty regarding the existence of gold resources than them.

Why continue to tear down mountains, dredge up rivers, and construct massive man-made lakes loaded with the toxic byproducts of the gold extraction process, only to wait for them to collapse and release poisonous waste that contaminates our planet, leaving behind death and ecological destruction?

It’s time to pivot to ESG-friendly digital mining that tokenizes NI 43-101 certified gold resources into NatGold™ coins. This natural evolutionary approach liberates gold to serve its 6,000-year-old monetary role without environmental, social, and financial damage.It’s time to revolutionize the way we capture the value of gold and put an end to this unnecessary, unsustainable madness.

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Who is OroEx Corp., and what is their role within the NatGold ecosystem?2024-04-21T19:10:09+00:00

OroEx Corp., based in New York, NY, is the founder and exclusive operator of the NatGold ecosystem, a comprehensive hybrid ledger/blockchain-based platform that facilitates the tokenization, storage, distribution, and global trading of NatGold coins within a DeFi framework. OroEx ensures that all components of its operations are fully auditable, transparent, and strategically managed.

The NatGold ecosystem encompasses several key components:

NatGold Digital Vault: Actively facilitates the tokenization process and safeguards all related documentation by securely recording and managing tokenized assets.

NatGold Bilateral Bridge: Facilitates seamless interactions between the ledger system and blockchain networks.

NatGold Multichain: Supports the global distribution, storage, and trading of NatGold coins.

NatGold Media DApp: Delivers continuous communication and updates on the NatGold industry within the DeFi universe, keeping stakeholders informed and engaged.

Each component works in concert to ensure a secure, transparent, and regulatory compliant environment, making the NatGold ecosystem the essence of the global NatGold industry.

Why are NI 43-101 Technical Reports automatically accepted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under Regulation S-K 1300, whereas technical reports from other nations are not?2024-04-20T23:32:08+00:00

NI 43-101 Technical Reports are automatically accepted by the SEC under Regulation S-K 1300 due to their strict adherence to the regulation’s rigorous standards, which prioritize detailed, transparent, and reliable disclosures of mineral resources and reserves. These reports are developed by the Canadian Securities Administrators and set a high standard for the public disclosure of scientific and technical information concerning mineral projects. This includes stringent requirements for the qualifications and responsibilities of “Qualified Persons” who verify the reports, ensuring that the disclosed information is both accurate and verifiable.

In contrast, reports from other standards like JORC (Australia) or SAMREC (South Africa) might require additional reconciliation to align with S-K 1300. While these standards are internationally aligned to the CRIRSCO templates, which share common core definitions and guidelines with S-K 1300, they often have slight variations in definitions and reporting criteria. These differences mean that technical reports from these and other non-Canadian jurisdictions may need to demonstrate their compliance with S-K 1300’s specific requirements through detailed reconciliation, making them not automatically acceptable like NI 43-101 reports.

What are NatGold Miners?2024-05-03T15:38:38+00:00

NatGold Miners, often called natural gold or green gold miners, are primarily gold exploration companies or producers that focus on developing new or acquiring existing gold deposits with National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) certified resources. Operating within jurisdictions with NatGold legislation, their main activity is “swapping or exchanging” mining titles for an equivalent quantity of NatGold coins through tokenization. This method bypasses traditional gold mining by utilizing legal frameworks that allow the digital tokenization of in-ground gold resources. Consequently, these resources are mined digitally in an ESG-friendly manner, avoiding the negative environmental and social impacts typically associated with physical extraction. This process effectively unlocks gold’s monetary value without the detrimental effects. NatGold Miners are instrumental in the expansion of the NatGold ecosystem, fostering the sustainable and digital monetization of gold resources.

Isn’t silver considered to have monetary utility, similar to gold? What happens when there are certified silver resources in addition to the primary deposit of certified gold resources? Is the silver given any gold equivalent value?2024-05-01T17:22:10+00:00

It’s extremely common for a gold deposit to include significant amounts of other metals—both precious and otherwise—alongside the gold. Silver is one such metal that frequently occurs with gold and has a rich monetary tradition alongside its “big monetary brother.”

Silver has always played an important monetary role throughout history. Sometimes referred to as the “common man’s gold,” silver was historically used for more routine commercial transactions of a smaller nature, whereas gold fulfilled larger transactions. The true monetary history of the world is bimetallic: gold and silver.

One significant difference between gold and silver is that over time, the monetary utility of silver became overshadowed by industrial usage, which accounts for about 60% of its utility. Thus, its monetary utility is no longer its primary utility, whereas with gold, its store of wealth utility remains its primary function.

Because silver plays an important role in the global investment world, with as much as 40% of its demand for investment and store of wealth purposes, it is important to recognize their value. Therefore, in models like NatGold, certified silver resources are valued on their gold equivalent ratio basis. This means that the NI 43-101 certified silver resource is converted into its gold equivalent value within the same resource category; inferred, indicated, or measured resources.

It is important to note that NatGold’s legislative policies are focused on gold as the primary element of tokenization. The silver resources to which we are referring would be a by-product resource that occurs along with the primary certified gold resource.

Who are “Qualified Persons,” and how is their independence guaranteed?2024-04-20T23:30:49+00:00

“Qualified Persons” (QPs) are integral to the Canadian National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) standards for mineral project reporting. These professionals must have a minimum of five years of experience in the area of mineral exploration, mining, or project evaluation related to the deposit type and activity being reported on. Importantly, QPs are required to be members in good standing of a recognized professional association, such as the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC), among others across Canada and internationally that uphold similar professional standards and ethical codes.

The independence of QPs is critical to maintaining the credibility of NI 43-101 reports. To ensure impartiality:

Professional Ethics and Standards: As members of reputable professional associations, QPs adhere to strict ethical codes that mandate integrity and objectivity in their assessments.

Regulatory Criteria for Independence: NI 43-101 defines clear criteria to prevent conflicts of interest, ensuring that QPs do not have a vested interest in the projects they report on, beyond their professional fees for services rendered.

Mandatory Disclosure: QPs must disclose any potential conflicts of interest in their reports, including financial interests or any relationships with the company that could be perceived as compromising their independence.These measures guarantee that mineral resource estimates and technical evaluations are conducted following the highest standards of professional conduct, offering a reliable and unbiased perspective to investors and the public.