Not only is Yosemite National Park a national icon and refuge for endangered wildlife, but it also boosts local economies by attracting tourism. Both its beauty and tourism, however, are threatened by the looming potential for industrial gold mining around the park. There are currently 185 active gold mining claims within just ten miles of Yosemite National Park: Visitors drive through these claims to enter the park and some are staked directly up against the borders of the park itself. With the price of gold skyrocketing, mining corporations have the incentive to invest in large-scale mining around Yosemite. This could destroy Yosemite’s pristine nature and consequently diminish the allure of visiting the national park.
Obtaining an ounce of gold can require digging up a minimum of 30-tons of ore. Further chemical processing is required to sort the gold from the ore, which has historically resulted in sulfuric acid runoff or spills of toxic chemicals like cyanide into the environment, devastating the ecosystem for miles around. Following the boom-bust cycle of gold will always result in winners and losers. In the case of mining around Yosemite, the potential environmental and tourism losses for society are simply too great to justify the mining corporations’ gains.
It is imperative that the Obama administration protects Yosemite from this fate like it has protected the Grand Canyon, or else the natural beauty that surrounds the park and the wildlife within will be needlessly threatened.