Gold 101: Hard Rock and Death Metal

Some nuggets about America’s dirtiest industry.

Photo used under <a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons license</a>.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Share of revenues that hard rock mining companies pay for operating on public land: 0%

Estimated value of minerals mined from public lands since 1872: $408 billion

Amount the federal government would collect annually if mining companies paid royalties: $100 to $200 million

Minimum number of times legislation to require royalties or leasing fees has been beaten back in Congress: 14

Amount mining companies save annually due to a tax break on income from public lands: $327 million

Amount a Canadian firm paid for 1,950 acres of public land in Nevada in 1994: $9,765

Estimated worth of the gold on that land: $10 billion

Number of new claims staked on public lands in the West since 2003: 206,688

Number that are within 5 miles of a major city: 16,282

Number that are within 5 miles of a national park: 2,901

Portion of all toxic waste released in the US in 2006 that came from mines: 1/3

Factor by which metal mines emit more mercury than all other industries combined: 9

Amount of waste produced by mining the gold for a single wedding band: 20 tons

Estimated cost of cleaning up the 500,000 abandoned mines in the US: at least $32 billion


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend