Bitcoin critics often point towards the cryptocurrency’s negative impact on the environment as a reason why it is not a sustainable currency option, but many of these same individuals are turning a blind eye to the negative impact caused by the world’s most well-known store of value – gold. However, a Netflix show has lifted the lid on the human and environmental cost of illegal gold production which shows that its impact is, in many ways, worse than that of Bitcoin, but because it is a more established medium this goes ignored.
Human Cost of Illegal Gold Mining
In series two of Dirty Money, investigators delve into the world of illegal gold mining in Peru, where miners risk their health on a daily basis, digging around in dirty water for hours on end, searching for gold particles. These particles end up being melted together and sent to Miami, where the illegal gold enters the legitimate market while the money for it ends up in the hands of drugs gangs.
The human cost doesn’t just end there – vulnerable women and girls are trafficked to the mining regions where many end up dead, alongside the couriers who endure daily risk to life by driving many miles to the gold shipping terminals, knowing they could get robbed and killed on the way.
Mercury Poured into Rivers
Alongside the human cost of illegal gold mining is the environmental cost. In one Peruvian mining hotspot, La Pampa, 185 tons of mercury is dumped into the rivers every year. Used by miners to separate the gold from other particles in the filthy water, this toxic addition to the river water not only virtually guarantees mercury poisoning for the miners, it poisons the wildlife and vegetation in the country.
Illegal gold mining has also destroyed over 260 square miles of rainforest in the region since 2009, with around 650 square miles of Amazon rainforest destroyed annually in pursuit of gold. Bitcoin may not be perfect, but it has nothing like this kind of direct impact on people and environments.
And don’t forget that the majority of gold is hoarded by governments and institutions in case of a financial crisis or to adorn fingers, necks, and earlobes as a show of wealth.
Bitcoin’s Unfair Deal
It’s safe to say that if the roles were reversed and the world’s billionaires and banks held Bitcoin rather than gold, the destruction and devastation caused by the desire for gold would be highlighted more by mainstream media instead of being swept under the rug.
That isn’t to say that Bitcoin’s environmental impact shouldn’t be addressed, which is why more environmentally conscious mining farms are springing up all over the world, from Russia to Canada.
Gold Will Always Come Out Clean
The truth is that there are too many ‘important’ people holding gold for any denigration of the precious metal to make much of an impact, while Bitcoin’s association with illegal activities is exacerbated and paraded for the world to see on a regular basis.
Never mind that gold was described as being a source of income for “narcotics dealers and warlords” in 2019 by refining and banking executives. As long as the right people hold it and wear it, it will always come out clean.