Gold is an essential element in the cultures of many lands. In most African and Asian countries, births, marriages and deaths feature gold in the rituals. But just what that price has been in human and environmental costs is too astronomical to assess. Rich investors have been willing to set a high currency price on gold, but it has usually been the poor who paid the real price: the tons of ore and hundreds of gallons of poisonous substances that go into the extraction of gold, and the chlorine, mercury and cyanide that have filtered into croplands and water sources. Meanwhile the demand for gold in jewelry goes on regardless. Indians, the largest gold buyers in the world, would still rather invest in gold than in almost anything else. An exclusive jewelers store in Amsterdam caters to rich clients who would easily spend $50,000 on a necklace. But in reality it is the poor who pay the real price of gold. Gold is a rare substance, but technological progress has meant that it is now relatively cheap to mine.
Produced by Dheera Sujan and Michele Ernsting
Broadcast in Euroquest 14 April, 2000