The best justification for mining is that it produces the basic materials we need to live: metal for windmills and Prius cars; uranium for power (electric & bombs); talc for toothpaste and face powder. The list is endless. Yet we cannot say the same about most gold. Some gold indeed goes into caps for rotten teeth or connections in computers, but if the latest report from the Swiss banks is correct, most just goes into vaults in Switzerland. Apparently Swiss banks are running out of space to store more gold bars.
Its a scary and silly thought: all that activity to take it out of the ground to promptly put it back in the ground. True a different ground, but still the gold bar is buried deep in the ground. Most places are left with holes in the ground (maybe producing acid drainage) and Switzerland has holes in the ground filled with bars.
What is even more distressing is just how little space a bar of gold occupies. Switzerland is not large, but it is not that small. Imagine how much gold it must have if it is running out of space.
We must ask who benefits from this insane circle? Who benefits from taking it out of one place to bury it in another? You could argue the miner, for he get money to feed his kids from the transfer operations. The shareholder who grows rich as the stockprice rises in response to the demand for more gold to be stocked in a Swiss bank. A university lecturer off to a mining conference in Switzerland to make another profound pronouncement. The many happy people who own the gold–sleeping happy knowing their wealth is safe in a hole in the ground beneath a Swiss bank.
There may be sillier ways of making money or making people happy. For example painting toe nails; watching black & white movies; attending Star Trek conventions; reading Ron Hubbard. Yet even these strange activities make some people happy and make people money. But there is a difference. These activities do not leave behind a hole in the ground that may forever generate acid drainage. I urge some bright young researcher to balance the value of the gold in Swiss banks and the cost to taxpayers of perpetual water treatment at the mines that produced the gold in the holes beneath the banks. I bet there is parity.
I recognize the urge to hoard gold is as deep as human nature. I recognize gold has been hoarded since tribal warlords and then kings & queens adopted the yellow metal as a symbol of power and potency. Richard II spent 300,000 gold ducats to bring his eleven year old French bride to England.
All the unctuous words in the world will not justify mining to hoard. Keep that in mind next time you defend mining as a producer of raw materials for material benefit.