The case for banning gold mining



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More like the case for asteroid mining.

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You should call this the pig in a poke theory of commodities trading. There’s no such thing as “known” gold deposits in the ground. There are volumes that are believed to carry gold. The only way to know how much gold is down there is to dig up the ground and process it and refine the gold and then weigh it. The cubic yard of dirt you refine into gold one day may be right next to 1,000 cubic yards that refining shows contain no gold at all.

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Are we talking about golden asteroids raining from the sky?

Is that the good thing we’re looking forward to now?

I’m not an aerospace engineer now - let alone a couple generations from now - but I suspect dropping asteroids wholesale would be a major no no. Ideally if I was approaching it from an engineering standpoint I’d want to de-orbit relatively refined ingots in reusable packaging that doesn’t ablate into environmentally damaging gasses. A means to slow them down before atmospheric insertion would also probably be a good idea.

I don’t know if minerals mined from asteroids can be safely dropped or lowered into Earth’s gravity well in the future, but I’m sure strip-mining the Earth’s landscape now is ecologically destructive.

I suppose investors can just leave the ingots in orbit and own them from down here

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I suppose, but that sounds pretty dystopian. The benefit, if any, to mining the asteroids would be to depress the value of the metals to the point that they become a cheap resource as opposed to a zero-sum investment vehicle. That said - and again I want to emphasize that even if this comes to pass I think it’ll be too far in the future to help with our present crises - whether the resources are used mainly for Earth-based or orbital industries I wouldn’t hazard to guess.

But yeah, future decedents: If it needs saying, please don’t drop rocks willy-nilly into the ocean. If it needs to be said though, you might not exist and if you do probs don’t have space flight.

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The author of one of my favorite web novels wrote a blog post that started:

Asteroid mining business plan:

  1. Develop the technology to deorbit economically significant chunks of space rock.
  2. Demand money. No mining necessary.

As amazing as a world with asteroid mining could be, it’s also terrifying to imagine trusting humans with that kind of power. Rule of thumb, any matter hitting Earth from space would have a TNT-equivalent impact of about 15 times its mass, so a 1,000 ton asteroid (too small to meaningfully affect precious metal supply) on an uncontrolled descent would be about equivalent to the nuclear weapons used in WW2.


Yep. It’s free kinetic energy.

But I doubt we’ll have a technological civilization in the latter half of the 21st century if we don’t solve some of these global stewardship problems.


Nobody does; because it’s ludicrously uneconomic; but were that not a constraint gold would actually be a pretty compelling candidate. You basically get tungsten level density with lead level metallurgy.


The goldbugs who feel that they haven’t yet gotten far enough up the ladder would probably be really upset; but the proposal to stop mining something that is being consumed(not wildly quickly, but recovery rates for gold that goes into the various industrial, scientific, and medical applications; plus the occasional lost earring, sure aren’t 100%) is pretty obviously deflationary, which is pretty much a fetish in goldbug circles; so I suspect that, at a minimum, the ones who have already gotten theirs would love the idea.


Just like mining for bitcoin: if people are making money from an activity that is not bringing additional real wealth to the collective society… then that activity is cheaper than it should be and needs to become more expensive.

For bitcoin mining, raise the price of electricity. For gold mining, tax the process for what it’s really costing the environment, not just what it costs to administer the licensing.

I’m intrigued. What’s the issue with underwear? Is it the latex needed for the elastic?

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I dunno really.

Globally there’s about 200,000 tonnes of gold. So I think the assertion that losing the current mining of 3000 tons of new gold per year would dramatically impact prices seems tenuous.

I imagine what you’d get is just a renewed emphasis on recovering and recycling gold.

I think you can make a fair argument that gold prices are overall a speculative vehicle, that it’s changing gold prices that drive mining, not the other way round. It’s similar to bitcoin in that regard.

More like the cotton. Cheap cotton has all sorts of massive externalities wrt. pesticide use, massive water needs for irrigation, need for cheap labor, etc.


During the gold rushes, all of them, it wasn’t the guy out on the end who got rich. For every 2000 miners there was only one who even broke even. The people who made out were the ones who sold things the miners needed and wanted. When there is scarcity, it is the man who can provide scarce goods who becomes rich.

You want to prepare for doomsday? Screw gold. Hoard iodized salt, pepper, tobacco, sugar, coffee, needles and thread, razor blades, matches, toothpaste, soap, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, povidone iodine, whiskey, aspirin, Tylenol, band-aids, and paper towels. And the right types of canned things - vegetables, pears, apples, peaches, pineapple, and Dinty Moore beef stew. When a man can’t catch a rabbit and he’s hungry, he’ll give you a pound of gold for a can of Dinty Moore. When a man has a toothache, he’ll give you all the gold in North America for a bottle of Bayer. When a man has an infected wound, he’ll give you all the gold in the world and his daughter for some homemade Betadine.


I’ve entertained the notion recently of hedging against inflation by converting some digital assets into a shed full of 2x4s.

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