If you were prescient enough in 2001 to invest in gold you would have made a bundle by now. Gold prices have risen from $271 an ounce then to more than $800 today.
This rise in prices has prompted the latest gold rush in Idaho and the West as companies from all over the globe have a huge incentive to invest in finding new deposits or to redevelop old ones.
The big winner in this global treasure hunt is our neighbor Nevada. Its mining industry extracted $4.9 billion in minerals in 2006, $3.8 billion that was gold, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Gold was only going for an average $603 in 2006 so expect this year’s proceeds to grow even larger. Nevada mines produce 81 percent of the nation’s gold.
In 2001, Nevada gold miners reported they emitted 11 percent of the nation’s mercury.
Idaho National Engineering scientists discovered that some of these mercury emissions were blowing into Idaho and the Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir on the Nevada border has the highest levels of mercury in its fish in the state.
The large mining companies made an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions and when Idaho and other surrounding states said that wasn’t enough, Nevada developed its own program to regulate mercury emissions from miners.
They are finding that mines that previously reported few mercury emissions have more than they thought. How extensive the mercury problem is remains to be seen.
And how much of Idaho's mercury problem is tied to Nevada's mines also is still unclear. But now Gov. Butch Otter and his Department of Environmental Quality are aggressively seeking those answers.
What better time to address the gold mining mercury problem than when companies are rolling in profits.