Duh! I did give birth to three children, but the real labor, aptly called a labor of love, involved raising my three for the better part of thirty years (fourteen years separate my youngest and oldest).
Really, I don’t have rocks in my head, but there are a few ground-up in my toothpaste, shampoo, lipstick and eye shadow, not to mention the laundry list of minerals used in the production of my computer, car, and house. I ingest quite a few minerals, too, among them salt, zinc, magnesium, boron, copper, molybdenum, and calcium. Who knew?
Yep, one visit to the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colorado, and I’m a font of wisdom in all things mined and manufactured for the benefit of mankind. Rock on!
The last important gold rush of the 19th century was the Klondike Stampede of 1896, along the Yukon River valley of Alaska and northwestern Canada. In the 20th century, gold strikes have usually been exploited by well-financed concerns using advanced technology. An exception occurred in the 1980's and 1990's when a gold rush similar to those of the 19th century took place in the Amazon Basin of Brazil.
2. It is impossible to know exactly when humans started mining gold.
Some of the oldest copper mines have been discovered along Lake Superior, in Canada, and it is believed that native Indians availed themselves of this copper as long as 5,000 years ago.
The oldest known mine is located in the Kingdom of Swaziland, a small landlocked country in South Africa. Using radiocarbon dating to determine its age, Lion’s Cave, the name given the remains of the iron oxide mine found, is estimated to be approximately 43,000 years of age. At this site pal eolithic humans mined hematite to make the red pigment ochre. Mines of a similar age in Hungary are believed to be sites where Neanderthals may have mined flint for weapons and tools.
3. Our relationship with minerals began millions of years ago.
Early people used minerals to paint records of their history on cave walls and to create simple tools. By 3500 BC, bronze casting of tools and weapons in the Middle East began the Bronze Age. By 1400 BC, the availability of iron in Europe caused a shift in the center of civilization as
the Iron Age began. The Copper Age saw the advancement of metalworking as the Incas produced elaborate artworks and weaponry about 1000 BC. In today’s Space Age, industrial minerals take us to the depths of the ocean floor and beyond our neighboring planets.
4. The Bingham Canyon Mine is the largest man-made excavation in the world.
The copper mine, currently owned by Rio Tinto Group, an international mining and exploration company headquartered in the United Kingdom, has been in operation since 1906. It is still an active mine.
Over its life, the Bingham Canyon Mine has proven to be one of the world’s most productive mines. As of 2004, ore from the mine has yielded more than 17 million tons of copper, 23 million ounces of gold, 190 million ounces of silver, and 850 million pounds of molybdenum. The value of metals produced in 2006 at Bingham Canyon was $2.8(US) billion.
5. The largest raw gem ever taken out of the ground is a topaz that weighed 596 pounds; that’s 1,380,000 carats!
The Cullinan diamond is the largest gem-quality diamond ever found, weighing roughly 1.37 pounds and measuring 3106.75 carats. About 10.5 cm (4.1 inches) long in its largest dimension, it was found 26 January 1905, in the Premier No. 2 mine, near Pretoria, South Africa.
The largest polished gem from the stone is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.1 g) was the largest polished diamond in the world until the 1985 discovery of the Golden Jubilee Diamond, 545.67 carats (109.13 g), also from the Premier Mine. Cullinan I is now mounted in the head of the Scepter with the Cross. The second largest gem from the Cullinan stone, Cullinan II or the Second Star of Africa, at 317.4 carats (63.5 g), is the fourth largest polished diamond in the world. Both gems are in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
6. There are an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 abandoned mine sites in just the Western United States.
7. The Courrières mine disaster in Courrieres, France was Europe's worst mining accident.
Government figures indicate that 5,000 Chinese miners die in accidents each year, while other reports have suggested a figure as high as 20,000. Mining accidents continue worldwide, including accidents causing dozens of fatalities at a time, such as the 2007 Ulyanovskaya Mine disaster in Russia, the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia in the U.S., and
the 2009 Heilongjiang mine explosion in China.
8. The Bagger 293 is a bucket-wheel excavator used in strip mining. It is the largest land vehicle of all time.
It is 315 feet tall, 738 feet long and weighs 31.3 million pounds. It has a bucket wheel that is over 70 feet in diameter, with 20 buckets, each capable of scraping 15 cubic meters of dirt out of the Earth. It and its sibling have been known to accidentally eat bulldozers.
9. Every American uses over 47,000 pounds of mined products each year.
The laptop computer I used to create today’s blog post includes the minerals gold, silica, nickel, aluminum, zinc, iron, petroleum products and thirty other minerals. Holy mother of all minerals; what’s that demand doing to our resources? That’s a tough one to answer, but I know what it’s doing to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
10. Conflict minerals at the core of Democratic Republic of Congo atrocities.
Gold coats the internal wiring in the guts of many computerized devices; tungsten is used to enable the vibrate function in cell phones; tantalum is necessary in allowing battery-powered electronics to hold a charge when unplugged from electrical outlets; tin is a sodder essential to the manufacture of circuit boards.
Because all of these minerals can be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, militant groups such as the Congolese National Army, various armed rebel groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a proxy Rwandan militia group, smuggle and tax the appropriately-named “conflict minerals,” drawing in $183 million yearly to fund their violent operations.
Since 1996, more than 5.4 million people have died as a result of ethnic warfare and struggles for the Congo’s wealth of resources. The Eastern Congo is the site of the most lethal conflict since World War II.
Scott Pelley's report in November, 2010 on 60 Minutes highlighted the global issue of "conflict minerals" and helped spur the passage of a 2010 law aimed at requiring publicly-traded companies submit annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission on the acquisition of component metals. It was a small but significant first step in curbing the sale of conflict minerals and the human toll that comes with such mercenary tactics.