The intense boom driving the increase in the crystal trade in the last number of years has seen mining increase on a massive scale. YOUTH has a look at the impact that’s having and what conscientious crystal users can do about it.
Crystals are used to bring people healing energy and ground the spirit with the earth but this benevolence is at odds with the impact they have on some of the countries they’re sourced from. While millions of people around the world channel positivity and benevolence into their lives through the use of crystals, the practice of crystal mining in some countries around the world is murky at best and in some cases straight up, unethical, unsafe, unregulated and exploitative.
Having grown from being the preserve of mystically minded new-ager, into a trillion dollar industry, the increase in crystal mining has led to revelations that the stones are being sourced with questionable methods and having an extremely negative impact on the environment of the source locations.
Questions first were raised in an article in The New Republic in 2018. Then in 2019 a longread article written by The Guardian went much deeper into the grim truth about the crystals beloved by millions around the globe. The Guardian piece delved into the practices in Madagascar and highlighted the unsafe mining methods, the unregulated nature of the industry that employs children to work due to their ability to get into smaller passages to retrieve gems, and most tragically, spoke to families who’d lost loved ones in the deeply unsafe mines.
Asides from this, many gems are sourced as a byproduct of large-scale industrial mining, which in turn has its own deeply troubling consequences on the environment.
Many crystals are mined in countries with few environmental regulations – and even where standards do exist, they aren’t backed up by enforced sanctions to punish companies that don’t comply. Far from strengthening the connection between us and nature, many of these gemstones come from large-scale mines responsible for contaminating water systems and damaging wildlife.
One of these prized gems – blue chrysocolla – which is believed to bring “supportive goddess energy” into one’s life, is mined from Tyrone Copper in New Mexico. According to environmental organisation Earthworks, these mines in the New Mexico region are accountable for leaking an estimated 2 billion gallons of acid and heavy metals that contaminate surface and groundwater, to the point where the State of New Mexico and the US Department of Justice have had to file natural resource damage claims against the company.
The environmental damage doesn’t stop with water. What most of us don’t think about is that gemstones and crystals are a non-renewable resource – meaning that their supply from geological deposits is finite. In Myanmar, where mining operations for crystals are prevalent, the land has been decimated by soil erosion and sinkhole formation, and mountains are left to rubble. This in turn has fuelled the mass loss of biodiversity, from the plants that thrive on healthy soil to the wild species that depend upon the natural habitat for their survival.
So what can the crystal purchasing population do in the face of this?
Shop with your eyes open. Awareness of these issues is the most important thing shoppers can be armed with in order to combat it. Look for crystal retailers that are ethically sourcing their gems, or claim explicitly to be fair trade. Speak directly to your crystal retailer. Interrogate their sourcing practices and if you don’t feel they have enough information, find someone who does. There are many crystal sellers claiming to be ethical, so speak to them directly and be sure that your crystals aren’t coming from a questionable source.
A change is occurring, but it is slow, so if crystals are something you are passionate about, make sure you do your homework on your own purchases and be a part of the movement to hold bigger retailers with non-transparent sourcing, accountable for their impact on the environment and their partaking in exploitative practices. Shine the light on the dark side of the mined.