The Resource Curse

It's no coincidence that developing countries rich in gold and diamonds have the poorest populations. According to the Worldwatch Institute, "Mineral dependence has been shown to slow and even reduce economic growth in developing countries — a phenomenon economists have dubbed 'the resource curse.'" In Africa, for example, 60 percent of all private investment goes to the mining sector, and extracting raw materials for export provides no added value. Countries like the Philippines are left with a dwindling patrimony and a legacy of environmental degradation.

Percent of the world's undeveloped forests threatened by mining: 40
Percent of the world's energy consumed by the mining industry: 7 to 10
Tons of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide emitted each year by the mining industry: 142 million
Estimated percent of the world's gold production that will come from indigenous people's lands between 1995 and 2015: 50
Average tons of waste generated at a mine site to produce a single gold ring: 3
Percent of gold refined in 2001 that went to the jewelry trade: 82
Tons of toxic sludge released into the Philippines' Boac River by a Canadian mining company when its storage pit ruptured in 1996: 3 million
Tons of contaminated waste poured into Indonesia's Ajkwa River each year by the U.S. mining company Freeport-McMoRan, which is working one of the world's richest gold belts, on the island of Irian Jaya: 70 million
Percent of world gold separated from waste ore by cyanide heap-leaching: 85
Dose of cyanide that will kill an average adult: 1 teaspoon of 2 percent cyanide solution

Sources: The Worldwatch Institute, the Mineral Policy Center, and Greenpeace International

On the Web: To find out about the consumer campaign against the gold-mining industry, visit For more on the environmental and social costs of mining, visit,, or Project Underground at