Direction (6-10): Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions given below it. Certain words/phrases have been printed in bold to help you locate them while answering some of the questions.
Indians are known for their obsessive and compulsive fascination for gold. India is the largest importer and largest consumer of the yellow metal as Indians buy about 25 percent of the world's gold. In 2008, India imported around 400 tons of it. About 80 percent of the world's extracted gold is fashioned as jewellery. However, most of us don't know or don't think about the environmental cost of the metal. For instance, extracting enough gold to forge a solitary, no-frills wedding band ultimately translates into roughly 20-30 tons of waste. At some mines in Nevada (USA), 100 tons or more of earth have been excavated for a single ounce of gold.
The waste is of two forms: redundant rock, which is typically piled as flat heaps in locations near the mining site and the effluent or tailings which are a result of chemical processing of the mined ore. Sulphides in the redundant rock react with oxygen, making sulphuric acid which frees heavy metals like cyanide, cadmium, lead and mercury harmful to people even at miniscule concentrations. The tailings component is typically a thick slurry laced with cyanide, aluminum, copper, lead, and mercury; enough to decimate fish populations of water environments it is disposed of into. Disposal of wet tailings into water bodies has been effectively banned in developed countries but it continues to be practised in most developing nations. There is also a very real danger of surface water and groundwater table contamination on account of these heavy metals.
In fact, gold mining generates more waste per ounce than any other metal and the effects are startling. Mining for gold has left huge gouges on the face of the earth, so massive that they can be seen from space.
According to a study, respiratory ailments, soil and water contamination, thick blankets of dust, withering of coconut trees and changes in land pattern use are some of the common features of the urban area around a particular, gold mine in Karnataka. Many areas are reported to have become infertile because of soil contamination. They contain a percentage of heavy metals enough to retard plant growth.
Similarly, according to another report in 2008, nearly seven years after the closure of these mines, the people of this region continue to face serious environment and health problems, particularly in July and August, due to winds in these months that carry with them cyanide particles from the dust piles in the abandoned mines. When the mines were operational, a layer of red soil used to be put over these dust piles before these crucial months to prevent the cyanide particles from being carried away by the heavy winds. Now that the mines have been closed, the mitigative measures have ceased as well.
People from socially and economically marginalized communities turn to mining to escape acute poverty, unemployment, and landlessness. In some cases, their homes and farms may be 'acquired' for large-scale gold mining. While compensation is promised to them, it may take a year or two to kick in. Till then, forced to eke out a bare livelihood mostly in a kind of lottery system, they resort to crude methods to separate any flecks of gold that may be there in the discarded waste rock using mercury. In the process, destroy themselves slowly as well as their environment. The shanty towns which inevitably come up around the large-scale mining sites only serve to add to the problem. Given their illegal and therefore unrecognized nature, they lack basic amenities like garbage disposal and water supply and sanitation, becoming another unsightly blot on the landscape.
According to the World Gold Council, while estimates of numbers engaged in artisanal mining vary widely, they range between 13 and 20 million men, women and children from over 50 developing countries. Indeed, it is believed that as much as a quarter of the world's gold is supplied by artisanal miners. Their efforts to earn themselves a daily wage have resulted in huge habitat loss and destruction. For example, huge patches of land, once home to lush trees in the island of Borneo in Indonesia, are being swiftly rendered treeless and lifeless pits of waste. Incidentally, the island is highly famed for its rich biodiversity. Combined with heavy pressures from the logging lobby and need for cheap power through hydroelectricity and relentless mining activity, it is hard to imagine if Borneo will manage to retain its crown.
Why should these facts about gold mining bother us? After all, we just import the metal; we do not mine it here to the extent other countries do. That's about to change though. New Delhi has big plans to fuel growth in the mining sector and is looking to open investment in gold mining in the country - and in a big way.
However, India's environmental track record in mining has been anything but stellar. And this is something that requires close attention in light of the planned increased forays into gold mining. Even with the comparatively minuscule amounts of gold mining done so far, we have tripped up on environmental considerations. Geologically, India's terrain is very similar to those in other parts of the world where there have been huge gold finds. What we need to do is to learn from the mistakes committed by certain developed countries in their own backyard. We have a whole series of examples of where things have gone wrong from other developing countries. We need to use these insights to our advantage, and quickly.
According to the author, how are gold mines detrimental to the environment as well as public health even after their closure ?