This image was taken from an article, Impacts of Resource
Development on Native American Lands
by Erin Klauk, at

Mining Gold


Andy Glass

Gold mining involves large amounts of land and many different areas to mine and process, as well as dump waste. The picture above is of the Zortman-Landusky Mine and shows how a mine might look with leaching pads and waste dumps. The reporting scale below is of the current price of gold taken from Higher gold prices result in increased mining prospects, and mining companies must weigh hazards associated with mining against potential to increase their respective revenues. Read on for details on mining gold and click on these images or any of the pictures on this webpage for additional relevant information.

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This webpage project was created for a gemstones and gemology course taken in the 2006 spring semester at Emporia State University. The assignment was to learn webpage creation, as well as present a summary of our knowledge regarding gemstones and their valuable properties and uses. In order to understand gemology, a background gemstones and traditional mineralogy may be important. If you have any questions or comments regarding this webpage, send them to

Table of Contents


Known since prehistoric times, gold was one of the first metals used by humans. It was used in ornaments and attributed magical properties (Gold, Today gold is used in jewelry, coins, electrical-electronic applications, medical and chemistry fields, dentistry and in many other applications (Daniel, 1999). This widespread use, along with its beauty and rarity, helps gold retain its high value. Gold is widely distributed and found in the United States, Russia, China, Australia, as well as South Africa, which is among the primary producers (Gold). When found in ore, gold must be extracted by mechanical means and separated from other material through chemical processes. Techniques have been developed that allow even microscopic pieces of gold ore to be recovered. Miners can exploit deposits with only 0.015 ounce of gold per ton of rock (Ven).


There are several ways to mine gold from the ground and extract it from rock. These methods to be presented include cyanide leaching, amalgamation, and vat leaching. Also discussed are some hazards of these methods.


While modern techniques make it possible to exploit even the smallest commercially viable gold deposits, there are many side affects to mining. Precipitation processes use hazardous chemicals that are occasionally not stored correctly, letting byproducts (cyanide, etc) leach into nearby streams or ground water. Piles of tailings may collapse and pollute local waterways. New methods have been developed to slow and possibly stop this from happening, but these do not have a long history and may ultimately fail in ways similar to the previous methods. Some mines use more environmentally friendly means (such as not using hazardous chemicals) but these are the exception (Ven).


As gold prices continue to climb, smaller deposits will become more valuable and more likely to be mined. The most common process today is leaching, which often uses cyanide. Mercury amalgamation is not as common due to its well documented side affects and general disdain by the public. However, there is some danger to both the miners and the environment from current extraction methods. New, but unproven, methods have been developed to try to contain mine waste but it is unclear if these will fare better than the older methods.


Gold is a valuable mineral with many applications. Its use is widespread in many industries, although many value it for its beauty. Mining techniques have and will continue to evolve, from the early days of panning for gold to today's massive operations using gigantic machinery, such as the gold crusher below. As the name implies, this machine is used to grind rock containing ore, either to remove the gold or to prepare it for leaching.

Gold Crusher. Image taken from

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References and Resources

Cripple Creek &Victor Gold Mining Company. 2005. Crushing. URL: The homepage of CC&V from Victor, Colorado is

Daniel, Travis. 1999. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gold. URL []. Date accessed [April 2006]. 2006. Amalgamation process. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. URL: 2006. Cyanide process. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. URL:

Gold. URL []. Date accessed [April 2006].

Gold Leaching. URL []. Date accessed [April 2006].

Heap Leaching. Wikipedia. URL []. Date accessed [April 2006].

PAMP 2006. Heap leaching image. URL:

Ven, Chris Van de Unknown. Gold Extraction Using Cyanide Leaching. URL []. Date accessed [April 2006].

Homestake Gold Mine, South Dakota. Image taken from


Related Links

Gemstones Syllabus WebPage Assignment
Past Student WebPages Gemstone Links

Return to GO 340 student webpages.

Date created 27 April, 2006; last update 5 May, 2006. © 2006 Andrew Glass. All rights reserved.