Part of what makes the Pebble Mine debate so interesting is that the mining industry has come head-to-head with the fishing industry. But in other places around the world it is the gold mining industry that has been established. A website called “Goldfacts” is run by the World Gold Council, and shares many of the benefits that come with what is described as “responsible large scale gold mining”. The site asks consumers to seek out gold that comes from mines meeting the Conflict Free Gold Standard, but it also points out many of the social benefits that can come as a result of responsible large scale gold mining.
Goldfacts argues that gold mines invest in improving local education, healthcare, and infrastructure, not to mention the tax revenues and individual salaries that can also be reinvested in these sectors. For example, in November 2011 the Bulyanhulu Gold Mine in Tanzania announced it would be spending $94,000 in education and health projects to benefit villagers in the Shinyanga region. This is another in a series of investments African Barrick Gold (ABG) has made in Tanzanian infrastructure. Even the existence of some large scale gold mines can improve the lives of the people around them. The mines require improved transportation and utility infrastructure, which ends up provided improved services to the people living in the surrounding area. The statistics to back up these cases can also be quite impressive. According to Goldfacts, a study in Peru found that non-mining districts had an average of 17% more poverty and 12% more extreme poverty than equivalent gold mining districts. They also point out that 98% of mine workers are Peruvian nationals. In Tanzania, the gold industry provides 3.6% of the nation’s tax revenue and employees more Tanzanians than all of the utility sectors combined.
It is important to recognize the ways that local people benefit from responsible large scale gold mining. However, it is also important to examine how many large scale gold mines meet the Conflict Free Gold Standard and how responsible these mines really are. Goldfacts provides some persuasive arguments and some very impressive statistics regarding gold mining, but it is also run by the World Gold Council. There are many interests at play here, and in the case of the Pebble Mine it is crucial to pay attention to the economic interests of both the miners and the fishermen.