National Geographic : 2009 Jan
• Hijau is exhausted in 20 years or so, the pit will bottom out at 1,500 feet below sea level. e environmental wreckage doesn t concern Nur Piah anymore. "I only think about getting my salary," she says. ere is one thing, however, that Nur Piah finds curious: In a decade at Batu Hijau, she has never seen a speck of the gold she has helped mine. The engineers monitoring the process track its presence in the copper compounds to which it adheres. And since the gold is shipped out to smelters overseas in copper concentrate, nobody on Sumbawa ever sees the hidden treasure that has transformed their island. Pushed by rising gold prices and the deple- tion of deposits in the U.S., South Africa, and Australia, the world s largest mining companies are pursuing gold to the ends of the Earth. Few companies have gone global more aggres- sively than Newmont, a Denver-based mining giant that now runs open-pit gold mines on ve continents, from the lowlands of Ghana to the mountaintops of Peru. Lured by the bene ts of operating in the developing world---lower costs, higher yields, fewer regulations---Newmont has generated tens of thousands of jobs in poor regions. But it has also come under attack for everything from ecological destruction to the forced relocation of villagers. At Batu Hijau, where Newmont, the single largest shareholder, is wholly responsible for the mine s opera- tion, the company has responded by ramping up community development and environ- mental programs---and dismissing its critics.