Got Gold?

Posted: March 1, 2011 in Nicaragua

We all have some kind of gold jewelry. It’s a “precious” metal that we find “attractive” because of it being expensive and somewhat rare.

While in Juigalpa and touring around with Carlos, we found an old gold extraction facility. And by old, I mean really old… over 100 years of non-stop hammering on the rocks.

Here is the gold extraction process…

The mines go over 100 feet deep. The rock is extracted from the mines with really old school technology… or no technology at all. The environment is so dangerous that tourists or outsiders are not allowed in… not even in a country where money gives you great access to anything. The rocks and dirt are brought over in bags to the extracting facilities. Here, it’s dropped into this old school grinder. When there is electricity, the grinder is turning by the power of an electrical motor connected to an old truck transmission. The big rocks grind down the rocks and dirt to really fine particles.

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And there is also this other old school machine that hammers down the rock with 4 large piston like hammers. The noise is incredibly loud.

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This guy takes the fine sand and adds mercury to it in a bowl. The mercury, a highly toxic substance, coagulates the gold into larger particles. The guy plays around in the bowl with the mercury and the sand bare handed. He filters it out many times, dropping the water and parts of the mercury down the water drain in front of him.

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Here is the final product. About 3 grams of 14k gold.

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And here is the river coming out of the factory. It’s filled with dirt and small particles of mercury. It flows down right by a village and passes a few more on it’s way to a big lake or to the ocean. There are no filtration systems what so ever. On the right side, you can see the clear water coming and mixing in with the dirty one. Just a few meters up the road, there were some nice small falls. Over 100 years of gold processing and mercury spreading in the river from this one facility alone.

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  1. alexandra says:


    1) Price of gold has tripled since 2001
    2) The use of mercury is the cheapest, easiest way of extracting it
    3) Latin America (asia and africa too but screw it…that will be relevant for your next Tintin adventures – which btw, Tintin movie directed by Spielberg is coming out!), there are tens of thousands of mining sites which use as much as 1,000 tons of mercury each year.
    4) Mercury ravages the nervous system
    5) Also travels thousands of miles in the atmosphere, settling in oceans and river beds in Europe and North America and moving up the food chain into fish.
    6) As mercury has a relatively high vapor pressure, a significant amount vaporizes and is in the air. Hg is in the air…everywhere I look around…Hg is in the air…lalala

    Lay off the fish. take omega-3 supplements instead!

    Small-scale gold mining is the second-worst source of mercury pollution in the world, after the burning of fossil fuels!!

    • pimptrix says:

      Those are some interesting facts for sure.

    • Csabi says:

      the real problem with gold that it’s “real money” for more than 5000 year, if the central banks would stop printing fiat money believe me the “unit of account” of the money would be stable… and the mankind would not mine for gold (destroying the habitat, using mercury etc)… you can’t counterfeit gold/silver thats why it’s precious and kills us… funny isn’t it ?

  2. Vlad says:

    are they hiring?

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