There's been a lot of hoopla on Etsy over the renewability of certain objects and materials used in jewelry making lately. And it's sparked an interest for me in researching that topic. I am always interested in the discussion between being more "green" and it's effect on artists and their work. I think it's great to be green but the speculation lately has been about what can be done and what can not. At any rate, it's a great topic to investigate further. And I want to look for more information and give myself and my readers a better picture to draw thier own conclusions from.
*For the record and preceding my article and research findings, I would like to state that I am not going to post my opinions nor views on the renewability of materials or resources I research nor am I going to put down other artist who use or do not use these materials and resources. I wish this article to be informative and nor a deragatory diatribe about how we should or should not support certain handmade artisans based on this information. I believe each human being on this earth capable of making that judgment call on their own after educating themselves about the topic and forming their own opinion of the issue based on their own personal beliefs. I will not shove my beliefs at you if you would in turn do the same for me.*
That being said.... let's begin our information hunt. I want to start with a material that I use sparingly in my designs due to the high cost: silver. I wear a lot of silver and therefore have a natural curiousity to learn more about it.
When one searches for information about silver mining, it is brought to light that a lot of mines that produce silver also produce other precious metals that may bring a higher price than silver. This would lead someone like myself to conclude that perhaps many mines are more concerned with mining those other metals than silver but this is once again speculation. To delve more into that idea, I would have to interview someone in the mining industry... which I may consider for a later blog.
I also made the observation that there seems to be quite a small list of mines actually producing silver at all. Makes me really wonder about how much more of this resource is truly available. Also makes me curious as to how many companies out there are going to be asking to recycle silver bits and scraps as well as perhaps unused or broken silver jewelry. Reminds me of all those gold commercials we are seeing at the moment on TV.
I've also made an observation from looking at several different mining company websites. It appears that many of them have either purchased more land for mining purposes or are in the process of acquiring more land. some companies have expanded their operations on land they already own. To the outside observer this means that the mineral resource is perhaps less than it used to be. Again, without further information from the source it would be difficult to say for sure. Just for you own personal research, here are a few good links for researching on your own.
http://www.silverseek.com/links/ This is a great resource. It gives you live prices on silver as well as a comprehensive lists of silver mines. You can link to many of these silver companies websites directly from here.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_mining_in_the_United_States I know there are those of you out there that HATE when others site Wikipedia for information but I believe this particular page is a good source. I like that it gives you an idea of where in the US silver ore is being mined. It's always good to be conscious of where your metals come from if at all possible.
http://www.miningnerds.com/silver-mining-report-all-countries This is just a cool resource that gives you a good list of how much volume of metal each mine produces as well as their listing price for silver. There's a ton more information there as well that I haven't really deciphered what it is or means.
Another thing I discovered as I delved into the mining of silver is how they extract the metal from the earth. Most mining is a pretty earth invasive mission. Most minerals are extracting from the ore, or rock containing the mineral, through a process called smelting. Smelting is a chemical process in which the minerals are leached from the ore using other chemicals such as carbon or mercury. Many other chemicals can and have been used in the smelting process as well. Smelting also involves roasting or melting out minerals and chemicals from the ore. This process can also produce hazardous chemicals as biproducts. The one that comes to my mind most readily is cyanide. My father used to tell me stories of the copper mines in MT. He pointed to an old smelting chimney on an abandoned mine once and showed me how the trees on one side of the mountain still to this day do not grow. Cyanide gas still resides in soil there.
I would venture a guess that gold, copper and other metals are mined and extract in much the same ways as silver. So, this information could really span over those materials as well.
Now, while this this information can paint a pretty dissmal picture, please understand that in no way is this article meant to sway you in one direction or the other. I am merely providing information. Also, keep in mind that new and better ways of mining are always being discovered and researched. I am aware that more and more efforts to recycle metals and minerals are being employed. We are always changing and always moving in new directions.