The Price of Gold by Susan Kingsley

We are in the midst of a new gold rush, one that is consuming wilderness areas, contaminating watersheds, destroying ecosystems, and imperiling the economics of poor nations and the well being of indigenous people throughout the world. Some cumulative, irreparable consequences of mining will be with us, in this country and around the world, forever.

Gold is the ultimate paradox. Is it merely a yellow material that we happen to use a lot for coins, jewelry, and dentures? Can it be adequately defined as a dense, lustrous, precious metal that is an element, Group Ib, Period 6 in the periodic table? Is it money, lucre, wealth, something to hoard? Or is it a sacred substance, symbolizing the sun and possessing the power purify? Goldsmiths and artisans around the world esteem it as the most beautiful and desirable of metals; warm and glowing, malleable, ductile. Its permanence, its durability and resistance to corrosion immortalizes their labor. But it is also a commodity' a costly raw material with a fluctuating price that often serves merely as a vehicle for easy profit.

The flow of gold throughout history has caused us to be obsessed, intoxicated, inspired, and exalted. It has, from the beginning of history, been a dream, a myth, a symbol of something beyond itself. In The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession , economist Peter L. Bernstein recounts how it has, for 3000 years, excited and motivated peoples and cultures, determined the fates of leaders, destroyed economies, prompted inhuman acts, and "driven people to intense hardship in the hope of finding instant wealth beyond all sense of rationality." [1] In the end, he says "... gold has stirred the passions for power and glory, for beauty, for security, and even immortality. Gold has been an icon for greed, a vehicle for vanity and a potent constraint as a monetary standard" ...and notes that no other substance "has commanded so much veneration over so long a period of time."

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