Taxonomy term


Benchmarks: October 11, 1899: Second Boer War begins, fueled by discovery of gold

The 1886 discovery of gold on a farm in the Witwatersrand region of southern Africa drove the growth of Johannesburg, and gold mining has aided the South African economy for more than a century since. But gold, and diamonds, also fueled the Second Boer War, one of the most destructive armed conflicts in Africa’s history. The war resulted in the deaths of nearly 100,000 people, including tens of thousands of Boer women and children who died in British concentration camps. The consequences of the war, including gold mining’s lasting environmental legacy, and the rise of Afrikaner nationalism that reinforced apartheid, are still felt today.

11 Oct 2018

Mineral Resource of the Month: Gold

Gold was highly valued by early civilizations for its scarcity, durability and characteristic color, reminiscent of the sun, which was worshiped by some as a deity. It was first recovered from streambed gravels (placers), where it occurred in native form, and thus did not require extraction from ores. It was both essentially indestructible and easily worked. Gold nuggets were prized possessions that could be fashioned into bars of different standard weights and into ornaments and items of adornment that also served as portable wealth. Gold leaf (gold beaten into thin sheets) has been used to decorate significant architectural structures since ancient times. In the 7th century B.C., the Etruscans used gold to make false teeth, and it is still used in dentistry today due to its nontoxicity, durability and beauty.

26 Jun 2015

Striped pyrites link earthquakes to gold deposition

Many of the world’s richest gold deposits are found in fault zones, where the precious metal is concentrated in quartz veins that cut through the surrounding rock. For several decades, scientists have suspected that earthquakes help form these deposits by releasing pressure and giving metals in mineral-rich hydrothermal fluids in the fault zone a chance to precipitate. But clear evidence for this so-called “fault-valve” process has been hard to come by. Now, researchers studying the geochemical makeup of tiny pyrite crystals from one well-known gold mine appear to have found some long-sought confirmation.

18 Jul 2014

Gold, lead and death in Nigeria

Geology, economics and culture culminate in a perfect storm with deadly results

20 Feb 2012

All that glitters... Acid mine drainage: The toxic legacy of gold mining in South Africa

More than a century of mining near Johannesburg, South Africa, has left the region littered with mounds of waste and underlain by a network of abandoned mine shafts. Together, they are producing a toxic brew of acid mine drainage.

23 Sep 2011

Benchmarks: August 1576: False gold found in Meta Incognita

Three small boats set sail westward from London on June 7, 1576. Their goal: Find a northwest passage across the Arctic to Cathay, or China. A former pirate, Martin Frobisher, captained the 34 men. By July 11 they had reached Greenland. A storm overtook them, sinking one boat and forcing another to return home.
08 Aug 2011

Mineral Resource of the Month: Gold

Gold has been highly valued for thousands of years because of its scarcity, durability and characteristic yellow color — reminiscent of the sun, which some early civilizations worshipped as a deity. Crude forms of gold jewelry and money originated soon after the founding of the first cities, around 4000 B.C. People first recovered gold from streambed gravels (placer deposits), where it occurred as metallic nuggets. Gold nuggets have long been prized possessions because they can be used without complicated processing — easily fashioned into bars of different standard weights and into ornaments and jewelry that served as portable wealth. For more than five millennia, until well into the 20th century, jewelry, coinage and currency backing were the only important uses of gold.

14 Jan 2009