Precious Metals

Gold mining in Washington stirs environmental debate

Suction dredging streams in search of gold in Washington State has miners and environmentalists on opposite sides of the fence.

Screen capture courtesy of PBS News Hour.

Gold miners and environmentalists are facing off in the state of Washington over methods being employed to extract gold from prime fishing streams.

The PBS station KCTS 9 in Seattle and EarthFix, a public media partnership, report on the controversy about the potential for damage that suction dredging mining poses.

Washington is one of the few states that still permits suction dredging mining.

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In suction dredging, according to the news reports, miners in scuba gear use high-powered vacuums to suck the sediment from the bottom of a stream and subsequently power it through a riffle box. The riffle box separates the components of the sediment, and any gold present in the sediment will drop to the bottom of the container.

The rest of the streambed sediment and any organisms it may have protectively housed are expelled turbulently back into the water. 

"Environmentalists and anglers are trying to end the practice, arguing it damages streams and their related ecosystems," according to the PBS and Earthfix report. 

Read the complete report here.


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