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>.

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