For those of us who were duped into buying class
and for those who haven't done so yet...
With Berkeley-based Project Underground and others, we at the Rainforest
Information Center are starting to work with various groups around the world on a campaign
to make gold "stink" because of the extraordinary environmental and social
damage it causes.
The destruction is all the more deplorable because of the trivial uses gold is put to. The
lion's share, 70-84% of gold traded globally goes to jewelers and in the U.S. more than
half of that is for for class rings! Each of us may be unsuspectingly carry on his or her
wrists and fingers the responsibility for several tons of churned up rainforest top-soil,
for the destruction of trees and habitat for parrots and other rainforest birds,
orchids, butterflies, beetles ... We're starting to discuss this issue with some student
environmental folks and this seems a particularly promising opportunity.
These days with cyanide heap mining, mining is done with output as little as 1 part to
From the Timbarra mine being blockaded in Australia where cyanide leach mining presently
makes it economic to dynamite a sacred mountain into rubble and lace it with cyanide in
order to extract 1 ounce of gold from every 75 tons of ore...
...to Placer Dome's horrendous proposal in Venezuela presently the subject of action
alerts from Amazon Watch concerning the blockade by Pemon, Karina, Akawaio and Arawako
Indians trying to prevent their lands being desecrated by one of S America's largest gold
mines and their peoples from being decimated by diseases such as malaria...
...to US company Freeport-McMoRan using their helicopters in W Papua to transport the
Indonesian military on their attacks on the traditional landowners who are protesting the
poisoning of their rivers and lives...
...to the literally thousands of other disgusting gold mines destroying
rainforests and other natural areas, displacing and poisoning indigenous peoples and
dribbling mercury and cyanide into rivers all over the world.
Why are we fighting these nightmares one at a time? Let's bring together all the groups
working on these issues for a fur-style campaign on gold. Let's go for Molloch's jugular
rather than dealing with one symptom after another.
Let's take on the golden calf itself and the insane greed that it
When enough people and governments sell their gold, the price will soon drop to the point
where it is no longer economic to mine it because more than enough recycled gold will be
available to meet every demand.
Gold is becoming increasingly irrelevant to world finance. An investment in gold worth
$100 in 1987 would now be worth less than $70, according to the Economist. Some
countries have realized this and started selling their stocks of gold, especially Canada,
Australia and the Netherlands. The formative European Central Bank has said it won't use
gold as a key reserve to peg to the Euro. Even the Swiss - a country historically wed to
gold as a hedge -- are considering selling two-thirds of their gold (55 million tons) by
referendum next year and the US Federal Reserve has circulated strategy papers on doing
it. All told, we believe the governments of the world have 30% of all the gold ever mined
in vaults - that is equivalent to 18 years of current production. Given that $100 worth of
gold in 1987 is now worth $70 we don't see why they wouldn't want to sell. How can we
encourage the US and other governments to liquidate the gold reserves such as those in
The current depression in the price of gold is good for the planet. Already twenty gold
mines in Australia have been postponed or closed since the value of gold went below $300
per ounce. We have to keep it there. In 1996, if you include the cost of exploration, an
ounce of gold cost $317 to produce so the further we can keep it below this amount, the
more gold mines become uneconomic.
However, counter trends exist such as Y2K paranoia with the "smart" money
leaving banks and heading for gold, so I think it's important to weigh in now.
Published Saturday, August 29, 1998, in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Bloomberg News:
Russia concerns spur plunge in gold prices
Gold fell to a 19-year low on concerns Russia may sell gold from its
reserves, dumping even more on the market at a time when the metal has lost its appeal as
a safe investment.
Gold is no longer the asset investors hoard when other assets tumble. In the middle of
global financial turmoil kicked off by Russia this week, the precious metal is down almost
4 percent since Monday. Gold for December delivery fell $2.20 to $277.90 an ounce in New
York Friday, the lowest since June 1979.
The decline, sparked by concern that Russia will have to sell gold to raise cash to pay
its foreign debt, is the latest in a 2 1/2-year slump for gold, which fetched more than
$400 an ounce in February 1996. Gold is down 35 percent since then because other financial
assets, such as bonds, offer better returns when the pace of consumer price increases is
slow. Central banks have shed gold reserves and economic turmoil in Asia hurt demand for
One of the groups working with this is Project Underground from Berkeley. Here's a piece
their Pratap Chatterjee had published in the Spanish/English Magazine Abya Yala.
Gold, Greed & Genocide in the Americas
by Pratap Chatterjee, Project Underground
"The white warriors went across in their long dugouts. The Indians
said they would meet them in peace so when the whites landed the Indians went to welcome
them ... Ge-Wi-Lih said he threw up his hand ... but the white man fired and shot him in
the arm ... (s)he said when they gathered the dead, they found all the little ones were
killed by being stabbed and many of the women were also killed by stabbing ...
lady also told about (how) the whites hung a man on Emerson island ... and a large fire
built under (him). And another ... was tied to a tree and burnt to death" -- William
Benson, Pomo historian, recounts massacres at Clear Lake, California, May 1850
"A group of loggers and miners near the town of Pontes e Lacerda ambushed and
violently assaulted at least 14 Katitaulhu Indians in the Sarare reserve. The loggers
subsequently looted the Indians village, damaging a health post and school and stealing
money, tools and vehicles belonging to the Indians. Supporters of the Indians, who have
attempted to mobilize federal officials to comply with court orders to remove the illegal
loggers and miners from the reserve subsequently received death threats and intimidation.
The Katitaulhu were also threatened with further violence by the invaders. Medical reports
state that 14 Indians were wounded, many by having been tied up and beaten." --
Environmental Defense Fund report from Mato Grosso, Brazil, November 1996
Thousands of kilometers, and almost a century and a half, separate the two violent
incidents against the Pomo peoples of California and the Nambikwara peoples of Mato
Grosso, Brazil. Yet the root cause for both incidents was exactly the same: settlers in
search of gold.
The Clear Lake incident was a direct outcome of the arrival of Charles Stone and Andrew
Kelsey, two ranchers who arrived at the lake in 1847, who captured and bought hundreds of
Pomo, forcing them to work as slaves. Kelsey forced Pomo men into the mountains as virtual
slaves to help him look for gold. Eventually two Pomo cowboys, named Shak and
the law into their own hands and executed both settlers bringing the wrath of the United
States army upon them in the incidents described above.
The Katitaulhu are one of 12 Nambikwara subgrounded BR 364 road from Cuiaba in Mato Grosso
to Porto Velho in Rondonia was opened by Brazil's military government. Decimated by
epidemics and forcibly relocated to make way for the road, the Nambikwara died in great
numbers making desperate pilgrimages in an attempt to return to their traditional lands.
Some 6,000 gold miners invaded the Sarare reservation in the 1990s seriously polluting
major watercourses in the area, disrupting local fishing and hunting, spreading malaria
and viral diseases. The incident described above is just, one of many attacks on the
Nambikwara in the last two decades.
Foundation of empire
Gold is the foundation of empires throughout history as well as the root
cause of many genocidal attacks against indigenous peoples around the world. The Romans
founded their empire on Spanish gold, the Spanish founded their empire on Inca gold, the
1849 Gold Rush was the basis of the foundation of the state of California, today the World
Bank makes a profit supporting gold mines.
Take Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador, who arrived in Cajamarca, now part of Peru, in
1532 to trick Atahualpa, the last Inca king, into an ambush that led to the collapse of
his empire. One of the last acts of Atahualpa was an attempt to buy off the Spanish by
offering them a room full of gold and two rooms full of silver. The Spanish took him up on
the offer but after they got the gold, they murdered Atahualpa and proceeded to raze the
rest of the city to the ground.
Today the ransom room is the only surviving monument to the Inca presence
but the region is still being raped for gold: it is the site of Yanacocha, the biggest
gold mine in Latin America, which is run by Newmont of Colorado and funded by the World
Bank. Almost 500 years, after the Inca died defending their lands, the people of Cajamarca
say that their lands are still being seized and local people are dying because of the
contamination of local waters.
Yet economists, historians and media alike continue to celebrate the metal for its role.
In 1994 World Bank economists lavished praise on Peru for becoming the fastest growing
economy in the world by inviting in the new gold mines while in 1998 the historians and
media launched into a celebratory frenzy over 150th anniversary of the foundation of
California after the famous 1849 Gold Rush.
But for isolated indigenous communities the arrival of gold miners has always meant
disease and death, whether it be among the Nomlaki peoples of north-western California in
the 1850s or the Yanomami of the Amazon in the 1990s.