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Bitter Fact: The impact and the dark secrets of mining industry.

11/02/2023 | Pradip Bhandari

According to World Silver Survey 2021, 50% of the silver supply comes from South America. majority of consumers don’t simply know the jewellery they wear, simply made of brass, silver or gold at some point start their journey from the mines. It is hard to believe, how beautiful looking jewellery would have created thousands of mega holes around the world, soil erosion, chemical, air and water pollution and ultimately destruction of the eco-system.

'Grounded And Free' took a conscious decision. The decision to use only the recycled metals in our jewellery. We knew about the mining industry and its dirty secrets, so it did not take a lot to decide and in fact, make it a promise in our brand. We know this decision costs us time, mostly more money, and limits our revenue growth; because we don’t produce in mass or go behind the mass, It also costs us a huge deal of effort and energy to source via the right way. But, guess what? What matters the most is, what is the right thing to do.

So how are we doing then?

All the silver that we use is not bought from the main distributor, simply because they mainly come from the mines. Rather, we use recycled silver, the silver dust that falls off during rubbing and cutting the jewellery. They are simply melted, purified to 100% natural state and sold to jewellers like us. This also supports the local artisans who collect and sell this silver dust to make an extra living. But the bigger cause is the environmental protection that we are proud of. We will discuss why we chose this way and also encourage openly everyone to reconsider the choices they make. After all, it all boils down to the choices we make.

So, is mining really bad that you sometimes hear around?

Mining is a complex operation. It is not just digging and getting the metal out. Right from government policymaking, leasing lands, forcefully moving population( often without compensating or under-compensating), excavating the vast land, maintaining, hiring labours, transporting, dumping wastes, selling products/ by-products, decommissioning mines, handling environmental impacts( you wish it was done the way it is required) and far beyond. Not to mention, land survey, survey results manipulations, corruption to authorities for policymaking (so true in developing nations).

It is more than often that governments coerce the public to believe in economic developments, jobs and other opportunities when it comes to awarding mining contracts. But these hugely overshadow darker areas, the environmental impact, communal conflicts, health and life hazards, long time irreversible adversaries are just kept secret. A positive job outlook is mere a fooling facade of this dark industry.

Wait, before you read further, have you heard about the circular economy? 


It is a type of cycle of production and consumption which involves sharing, leasing, lending, repairing, recycling, replenishing, refurbishing existing materials as long as and as stretched as we can which reduces the pressure on wastage, pollution, climate change, land disturbance, biodiversity, etc.

It just reminds me of that recent global news where big tech giants were fighting in European court against the bill that would allow tech companies to allow consumers to repair their gadgets. They did not want us(consumers) to know how to repair our own phones or if you take it to a local repairer then would be considered illegal. Can you imagine? The main picture here is not about those tech-giants losing billions by not being able to sell new gadgets but rather the colossal amount of plastic, silica, toxic chemical, heavy metals which are in the scale of billions of tons per year landing into landfills( best case scenario), rivers, oceans, etc, just because they did not want us to repair their gadget and their greed in making money selling new items. It is true, they might make less money if they do practice a circular economy. But, hey, making money at whose cost? No brainer!

Of course, money talks right. Now you see who would want you not to know so much about the circular economy.

‘Back to Silver Mining’

So we now know there is actually a system of economy which promotes recycling sigh of relief companies could be serious about this option, let’s go back and check on details why we opted in for recycling, support circular economy as part of our ethics.

1. Dirty Industry:

This industry is plagued with every nightmare you can imagine. The top 3 largest mine exporters Mexico, Chile, Peru, are notoriously known for ignoring environmental measures, harvesting political and gangs related conflicts over the mines, child labour and forced labour. And deaths? Of course, hundreds documented and thousands undocumented.

2. Soil Erosion, land disturbances:

You can google first, those pictures of pits dug bigger than the city are real! So what happens to all those rocks and soil, toxic chemicals that are taken out from there? Simply put, they are notoriously thrown in the nearby areas for us everyone to breathe, eat and drink! There are only a handful of mines that are practising ethical measures but the vast majority simply ignore, hide or shrug off.

Even if one mine wants to reclaim land, re-stabilise the area, it will take 100-200 years to get the wildlife biodiversity it ever had. We are not even counting the toxic chemicals left behind that will linger there forever and ever.

3. Contaminates Groundwater & Soil:

Have you watched the documentary 'Dirty Gold' on Netflix? We suggest you do. It exposes many dirty secrets on how hazardous chemicals are used, how they end up in drinking water, how they go to our crops and ultimately back to our plates, creating tons of chronic and genetic health issues. It is a huge crisis veiled behind corruption.

Metals such as Silver & Gold are often extracted from areas surrounding streams, rivers & lakes and surely near either wildlife habitat or the civilisation. Data says the world’s top 20 mines are in developing nations, most of the earnings from these mines go into filling pockets of business tycoons and then to corrupt governments annual budgets(minus bribes). Do you think any penny out from it will ever be spent on investing robust processing, purifying toxicity of air and water, protecting long-term or indirect damages from such mines? Aha, in our dreams maybe!


4. Kills the Biodiversity:

How about the lives in the mines? And the deforestation, loss of habitat for animals, birds, insects? Obviously, they perish too! Did you know you need 100-200 years to regain the same level of biodiversity in the area after the mining is done? And no mines ever try to replenish the land, not a single one.

You do not need scientific calculations and formulas to see the damage it creates in the area. Just the aerial view from a helicopter can show hell like damage without even going further to land and water.

5. Formation of sinkholes:

You thought sinkholes are only in movies, they actually exist. Google them, they are everywhere. Opposite to popular belief that sinkholes are only formed above the reclaimed land after shaft mines are buried upon. New shreds of evidence show the problem of sinkholes is appearing even at a greater distance from the mines. It is not only due to the physical movement of the mass land but rather all sorts of chemical disbalance as well.

To say, sinkholes are not under the control of miners.

Once again we would have to talk about the importance of circular economy here. Why it is important to recycle raw materials. It is true, if done well, it can cost a hell of a lot of money to execute mining safely(just from the point of controlling leaching of chemicals, repurposing land area after cessation of mines, re-building ecosystem, controlling maximum pollution). Some small scale miners might not be able to even operate profitably. So solution boils down to creating a circular economy and re-circle the materials so the demand goes down and new supply is not needed much. And perhaps for some miners, opening a recycling centre could be the new profitable business.

6. Dark Secrecy:

Transparency is key for us, the moment information is hidden or limited, there is something wrong. And we should not ignore that. The worse thing we can is to ignore, the least we can do today is just one step forward towards the righteous path.

What can we do then?

You as the consumer can do a simple but extremely powerful step. I.E. to opt-in for recycled raw materials, whether it is silver, gold jewellery or any other consumer products.

Support the circular economy if not for you but then for your future generations to live on this planet.

Show the world you are aware of dark secrets and you decided to live consciously.

What is the best way?


Transparency is the key for brands. Question, question and question until you know they look right. Do they talk about their supply chain, are they honest? What else do they do to compensate the damage if they are doing inevitable damages to the earth( such as printing paper in the office = xx pine trees)? Do they carbon offset?

We are extremely proud that we are on this journey. We support circular economy not because we are required to but because we love to, we want to, we feel too.