Comparison of Gold Mining and Bitcoin Mining: Which is More Harmful?
Gold has been mined for thousands of years, with individuals and companies alike always looking to profit from this long-awaited precious metal. But today, people are not mining just for some valuable material possessions. Cryptocurrency mining is incredibly popular, with Bitcoin being one of the most profitable digital currencies from mining.
However, both processes have an impact on our planet. So, which is more harmful to the environment: Bitcoin mining or gold mining? Check What Are Cryptocurrency Cloud Mining Scams?
environmental impact of gold mining
Unlike bitcoin mining, gold mining has been around for a very long time. In fact, gold mining is believed to have started as early as 7000 BC in ancient Egypt and Sumeria. In recent centuries, with the advancement of technology, the gold mining industry has become huge, and according to Business Wire It became worth more than $240 billion in 2021. This number is expected to rise to more than $249 billion by 2026, so it’s safe to say that this market still has a solid future.
However, gold mining is not a benign process. As it involves excavation and exploitation of the earth, gold mining can completely destroy the natural environments and terrain and it has been done many times in the past. The rainforests of our planet, for example, have suffered greatly from gold mining. According to the institution Amazon Aid Foundation The Amazon rainforest released more than 1 million tons of carbon in 2017 due to deforestation (equivalent to emissions of roughly 250,000 cars).
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But things don’t stop there. Gold mining also produces huge amounts of toxic waste that contains heavy metals and deadly cyanide. I found research conducted by the company Brilliant Earth One 33-ounce bar of gold produces 20 tons of toxic waste, which is about the amount of waste produced per month or year. Since this waste is often dumped into natural water sources, the habitat surrounding a gold mine can suffer greatly from the effects of byproducts alone. Moreover, dumping this waste can have a devastating effect on marine life.
Since gold mining involves multiple and complex processes, its electricity requirements are also staggeringly high. In fact, gold mining consumes 131.9 TWh of energy annually. To put this in perspective, a terawatt equals a trillion watts, and a terawatt hour is a unit used to represent the use of a trillion watts in one hour. The Grand Coulee Dam, the largest hydroelectric power plant in the United States, uses only 2 gigawatts of energy to power the homes of eight million people annually.
The sheer amount of energy needed to mine gold also makes it an environmental problem, and there are a list of additional problems that make it a problem for our planet, including acid drainage, mercury pollution, and reduced biodiversity. But is gold mining the only culprit here, or is there something to be said for the environmental impacts of bitcoin mining as well? Check out where the special items to make your phone come from?
Environmental Impact of Bitcoin Mining
Since Bitcoin is a completely virtual digital asset, you may be wondering why it needs to be mined in the first place. The term “cryptocurrency mining” refers to the process of trading new digital currencies and verifying blocks of transactions by completing complex mathematical equations. Therefore, it does not include mining in the traditional sense of the word. The first Bitcoin was mined in 2009 by its founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, and new digital currencies have been mined since then by individuals called miners.
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While many cryptocurrencies can be mined, Bitcoin is the most popular choice simply because the reward for successful block mining is very high. Many individuals do mining from home, as the process can be performed with just a few pieces of hardware. It can range from a standard laptop CPU to a highly specialized ASIC miner.
Although it was once possible to mine Bitcoin using more basic hardware, now the competition is so pervasive that one can only succeed in mining it using an ASIC miner, and these devices can be very energy intensive. Miners often run their machines 24/7 to increase their chances of mining a block and getting the reward. Just think about how much energy you would use if you left the TV on all day and all night. Now, think of a specialized piece of hardware with a higher power consumption that is left running around the clock.
This is where Bitcoin mining becomes harmful to the environment. Today, there are about one million active Bitcoin miners around the world. With each one of these potentially powering the devices day and night, one can only imagine how much electricity was used. But mining does not stop at the individual. Huge Bitcoin mining farms have also been built all over the world, containing vast areas of ASIC miners, all of which are active and mining the next block.
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This constant need to run energy-intensive hardware on a small and large scale for Bitcoin mining has given it a significant carbon footprint. Bitcoin mining currently uses up to 127.48 TWh of electricity each year, which is not a number too far from that energy used in gold mining. Furthermore, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)NRDC) that a single Bitcoin transaction has the same carbon footprint as 330,000 credit card transactions.
But there is another problem associated with Bitcoin mining, and that is the long-term purpose. While gold is, and always has been, a precious metal, it always has value. In fact, the price of gold is currently increasing and is twice as high as it was a few decades ago.
On the other hand, Bitcoin has no objective value. Its price is mostly determined by supply and demand and can rise and fall dramatically in a few hours. Therefore, if one day the value of Bitcoin becomes very little, or worth nothing at all, all the energy used in the mining process will be wasted significantly. It is the sheer uncertainty about the future of the cryptocurrency market that calls into question the necessity and ethics of mining altogether. Check out the best free apps to calculate your carbon footprint and how to reduce it.
Bitcoin and gold mining are a threat to our planet
While Bitcoin and gold mining can be very profitable, the harmful processes and the huge amount of energy they require are undoubtedly a problem and cause great harm to our environment. While both differ in many ways, it is undeniable that the planet is paying a heavy price as a result of the Bitcoin and gold industries. You can now learn about the best technologies that can help save the planet.
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