Precious Metals: The Ultimate Costs of Gold and Silver Investing
“Should I sell my silver now?”My condolences go out to the family of Pete Marek whose untimely death in an accident at the Lucky Friday silver mine in North Idaho is a reminder to all of us that extracting minerals from the earth comes with a very high toll. There are untold tragedies occurring in mining operations around the globe. Sometimes there are heroic rescues and we get to celebrate. But too often there is no celebration. Only heartache.I dabbled in silver investing years ago when I was a newlywed. It was in the late 80’s when the precious metals market was active. I got caught up in the excitement that a dollar increase in an ounce of silver can cause. It can make one giddy. Over the years, I’ve struggled with the conflicts that investing in silver caused in my conscience and last year I almost completely divested all my holdings. As I watch the price of precious metals surge, I have to admit I miss that excitement. But in the current situation, I can see that there is really no reason to be celebrating. The dollar is struggling and speculators are getting fat.
And miners are dying.
The very first case that the U.S. Supreme Court heard in 2009 involved a gold mining operation in Alaska. The Court allowed the owners of the Kensington gold mine to dump mine tailings directly into lower Slate Lake, essentially killing all fish and life in the lake. They had to get around EPA regulations by getting the Army Corps of Engineers to rename the “tailings” to “fill” so they could legally dump them right into the lake. They propose to clean it up after they extract all the gold after 10 years or so. Then they can simply replenish the lake with fish. Yeah, right.
We depend on metals for so many things in our daily lives. Silver has many uses, including being an effective water purifier. That is what makes the Katadyn silver impregnated water filters so popular. I continue to be blown away by the demand for the Katadyn Pocket microfilter. Despite its steady rise in price, the Katadyn company can’t keep up with demand. That’s very telling about the value of water.
It’s important to put what we value in perspective. Let’s mine responsibly so that miners’ lives are not put in jeopardy, local people are not exposed to unhealthy emissions, and we don’t accelerate our destruction of the earth in our pursuit of treasure. In the end, things like family, friends, shelter, healthy food, and yes, clean water, are what matter most.