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Excavations/mining and few other questions about desert & water

 
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Greetings,
First I want to apologize if my questions sound stupid, I tried figuring this out on my own for a few days with research but I ended being more and more confused.
I plan to buy a big piece of land within few years in african desert near the red sea coast.
I have been looking into potential land spots and one of my favorite spots is a roughly 1000 hectare land near a gold factory or something like that. First I didnt think anything of it, because I was told by someone it was a brick factory earlier, and I didnt think anything of it, since thats quite a natural building material and not harmful to a farm nearby? Then I found out few days ago that it's actually a GOLD factory or mine or something of the sort. As some locals call it, "Gold Market". First I thought, oh okay...no big deal, but then I remembered watching one of Geoff Lawtons older videos about water harvesting and he mentioned ph, and acid and stuff, I still don't quite get it, but he also talked about how some minerals and metals are toxic to us and plants, and I asked myself, could Gold (and whatever is used to process it or clean it or smelt it, again I dont know all the words of this sorry!) be toxic to a farm? Google keeps talking about Cyanide from gold factories, I am horrible with all this fancy stuff, so I humbly beg if anyone could please explain (in simple language please, I have ABI disability and it makes it much harder for me to wrap my mind around complex things) if having a food forest with wildlife will be toxic being near a gold site? ( I dont know if the gold is being mined at the site or in the mountains, but there are tons of water basins at the gold place, see pictures.
The gold Market is less than 1 Km distance from the farm boundary btw.

Thank you for reading!


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The red marked area is the land I consider buying, the yellow circle is the gold market.
mining2.jpg
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A bigger image of the gold market.
 
pollinator
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Please do not get land next to a gold operation.

Yes they use cyanide and other very toxic chemicals in the processing of it. It never stays contained and always gets into the ground water. Longer they have been at the site worse off the contamination will be. With those water basins, please find another option.

It is likely due to this operation that that piece of land is available and priced nice enough to attract you. The old saying, "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is" likely applies to this situation.

There is a lot of people fighting the gold mining industry in my area due to what it has done to the water there.

I had a similar realization when I was looking for land. Not gold industry, but a leather tannery. I found what looked like a great place, but just a little ways away was an industrial tannery. Not only nasty stuff getting in the water from it, but also an aweful stink in the air.


*edit to add, btw I just noticed this was your 1st post. So welcome to permies. I hope you continue to share with us here your experiences, thoughts, and insights. I am sorry to suggest your favorite piece of land isn't a good idea, but I would hate for you to get it and find serious problems later down the road. I really hope you find that perfect dream land, and share with us how you make it into a little paradise.
 
Aery Rivers
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Devin Lavign wrote:Please do not get land next to a gold operation.

Yes they use cyanide and other very toxic chemicals in the processing of it. It never stays contained and always gets into the ground water. Longer they have been at the site worse off the contamination will be. With those water basins, please find another option.

It is likely due to this operation that that piece of land is available and priced nice enough to attract you. The old saying, "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is" likely applies to this situation.

There is a lot of people fighting the gold mining industry in my area due to what it has done to the water there.

I had a similar realization when I was looking for land. Not gold industry, but a leather tannery. I found what looked like a great place, but just a little ways away was an industrial tannery. Not only nasty stuff getting in the water from it, but also an aweful stink in the air.





Thank you so much for replying Devin :)!

I havent bought the land, nor do I know what its price is, I was simply looking at potential spots that seem to have big enough area without other owners on it occupying and utilizing it, since my lives end goal is to have a big healthy food forest for the local community to enjoy as well.
Do you maybe have a rough idea how deep would the toxins from their gold market seep into and spread out underground, so I can get a rough idea how much distance I would need from such sites.
Water is very scarce when it comes to that area, as it only gets 75mm ( 3 inches ) of rainfall per year, so I would like to stay as close as possible to the green "FAN" that gets water from dam deeper into the mountains to the left, and also rain runoff. (See picture, with blue lines)
It is a bit hard to determine where good land could be. On the very right is the red sea, I don't want to be too close it, as the soil and groundwater would be salty?
I am not sure that the huge basins on the shores are, salt/algea factory maybe? If salt, that would mean I need to keep an extra distance from them as well?
Do you maybe know what is a good distance from very salty ocean shore, since I am going to be looking for another potential areas around the "FAN" area.
It is about 15 Km between mountains and the sea.
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Devin Lavign
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I can see why you liked that spot with the larger view of the area. Indeed water is precious and so needed to succeed. That fan is a good area to try and locate near.

I really admire your goal, it is great to hear that you want to help the local community with your project.

I am sure you will get a lot of good advice here on this site. Some a lot more knowledgeable than me. I will do my best to give what answers I can though.

What I can tell you about your questions.

Both the toxins and the salt issue and distances is really tough to say for sure without knowledge of how deep the water table is, what the geology is, and other variables.

About salt. I live inland but grew up near the coast in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. We have a lot of farms that actually get very close to salt water without much problem. But it is also a temperate rainforest there. So a lot of fresh water running through the land that likely helps keep pressure on the salt water and keeps it out of the soil. In your area there, this likely is not be happening since water is so much less.

I would look less at distance and more elevation from the sea level. Looking for more than root depth of the trees you wish to plant above the level of high tide at sea level. I think that would be the best indicator of getting out of potential salty soil. (though I do not claim to be an expert at this, someone may correct me if I am wrong)

The gold "market" looks even more scary in reference to the land you liked with the bigger view as it looks pretty much like the land you liked is directly in the path water would mostly likely take both on surface as well as below. Like the fan from the water from he dam, I would try drawing a similar fan from the gold "market" of the down stream/slope areas and avoid any land within that section.

Hope this is helpful.
 
Aery Rivers
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Devin Lavign wrote:I can see why you liked that spot with the larger view of the area. Indeed water is precious and so needed to succeed. That fan is a good area to try and locate near.

I really admire your goal, it is great to hear that you want to help the local community with your project.

I am sure you will get a lot of good advice here on this site. Some a lot more knowledgeable than me. I will do my best to give what answers I can though.

What I can tell you about your questions.

Both the toxins and the salt issue and distances is really tough to say for sure without knowledge of how deep the water table is, what the geology is, and other variables.

About salt. I live inland but grew up near the coast in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. We have a lot of farms that actually get very close to salt water without much problem. But it is also a temperate rainforest there. So a lot of fresh water running through the land that likely helps keep pressure on the salt water and keeps it out of the soil. In your area there, this likely is not be happening since water is so much less.

I would look less at distance and more elevation from the sea level. Looking for more than root depth of the trees you wish to plant above the level of high tide at sea level. I think that would be the best indicator of getting out of potential salty soil. (though I do not claim to be an expert at this, someone may correct me if I am wrong)

The gold "market" looks even more scary in reference to the land you liked with the bigger view as it looks pretty much like the land you liked is directly in the path water would mostly likely take both on surface as well as below. Like the fan from the water from he dam, I would try drawing a similar fan from the gold "market" of the down stream/slope areas and avoid any land within that section.

Hope this is helpful.



Thank you again Devin for the helpful info !

Yes the gold market is not even 4 years old, thats the most scary thing about it, last I checked the spot, it had nothing there, not even a road, makes you think about it deeply... as in.. if I do find another suitable location/s for a big food forest, who is to say they won't build another gold or chemical station near the farms, I don't even understand why they built the gold market so close to the fan, as that waterway runoff from mountains joins the big "FAN" of farms..

I am just trying to predict bad spots, and chose "future safer" areas, as the goverment is known there to not care too much about farmers and displacing tens of thousands of people by damaging soil systems, changing plans for expanding cities or building huge dams in the past.
One can only hope that things will get better, however I don't count on it, there is a striking case of increasing famine, and people dying of thirst, because of the dams being built to supply the harbor city only. Very little actualy goes into the fan these days, there was a very strong flood half a year ago, and it might be a blessing, if those people had swales and ponds to collect it, but instead the flood diverted towards the city, and killed thousands of livestock and ruined many houses and crops.
Which is also why I liked the red marked area, it had 2 hills, in which shadow I could have built my house and key structures, so even extreme floods couldnt damage the area, they would just go right past the hills. And they cant be eroded since they are solid mini mountains of pure hard rock, granite is also a well know resource there, so I am not sure if thats why the mountain is still standing out in the middle of nowhere.

So the reason why I want to buy big land is, is cause I know how big my end goal wishes are, slowly expanding within my boundries and also following the lawtons advice, 70% trees, lots of deep small ponds, shaded to avoid as much evaporation as possible, lots of swales, keylines and dams to fix the water table and soil moisture, and hope that in about 5-10 years the forest can start feeding and provide drinkable water for others too as well as teach them what I can to improve their land.
As for elevation distance, it is around 80 metres above sea level near the mountains, 40 metres in the middle of the fan, and 5-10 metres at the coastal belt (marked with green line in picture below), where its 2 KM distance from belt to sea ( top soil there is visibly salty at spots ).

Another question I would have is, do I even need a well with pumped groundwater/flood water after I established the land in 3-5 years, with moist mulched soil, fixed nitrate, baby forest and shaded water bodies on top of years of rainy season rains seeping into soil all over the place. Reason is, I want the place to be very sustainable and not dependant on goverment dam and flood waters, the goverment keeps changing the flow of the dam waters too, so who knows if with urbanization one day nothing will be released from dam for the local farms..and then there are the chemicals too, what if more of those bad factories toxins seep into the main "FAN's" water stream.

So while I would like to have "easy" pumped, or watertank trucked water from the dam water, it would be much safer to just be self sustainable with the trustworthy rainwater and storing as much of it as possible, with 75mm ( 3 inches ) per year, would this even be do-able? Geoff said "for every one acre of land you need 20 acres of water" I am not exactly sure what that means in terms of water volume, but I guess with big enough land water harvesting wouldnt be a problem?

Even another question is, do I even need to live on the "FAN", or could I chose a spot further away from the cities farms, where no known floods are, chemicals, but also risk of no ground water. If if properly sustainedable managed rain harvesting could work, then might this not be a better idea?

Edit: And thank you for welcoming me, I just noticed it re-reading up. I thought I would do as much research on my own as I could before I would start bombarding permies with my silly questions, but the gold market was a real bummer I couldnt figure out haha. And thank you for your kinds words, and a big thank you for giving me advice not to buy land near gold factory, shameful to say but I never finished my school, due to serious head injury, that took me years to recover from, as I was also paralized, I still have permanent damage that makes my daily life 5x more tiresome as for normal people, learning and understanding new things can be very very hard "hence the silly questions", after recovering I didnt bother going back to school as I didn't feel like i fit in anymore with normal folks . Another reason why I am trying to leave the busy western city life, to a more simple and calmer country side in africa with my family, even thought it is a desert, I have been inspired by many permaculturists over the years, that big beautiful things CAN be done!

Also below are pictures of different kinds of mountain abuse works going on does anyone perhaps know any of the things they are digging up? It seems in many pictures, they are taking silt from riverbeds and piling them up in funny tiny hills?
Other little mountains get completely maggot grazed down to nothing....and then there is the dark dark areas that get munched out too, leaving giant empty scar basins, and the blue stuff?

If I know what excavations are toxic to farms, I can scout further away for better and safer potential buying land.
Thanks in advance!
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Devin Lavign wrote:Please do not get land next to a gold operation.

Yes they use cyanide and other very toxic chemicals in the processing of it. It never stays contained and always gets into the ground water. Longer they have been at the site worse off the contamination will be. With those water basins, please find another option.



With all due respect, there is no way to get to a conclusion like this from the scarce information of the original post. Yes some mines are using cyanide and sulphuric acid for gold recovery, others are using harmless gravity circuits that don't use any chemicals at all. Since the operation is close to a river bed, I would suggest the latter (placer mining). If it even is a mine - there is no information on this, and sure there is no way to tell from a low resolution satellite image.
Some mining operations are environmentally safe, others are not. Some mines grow eatable fish in their wastewater ponds.

@Aery Rivers: I would suggest you get a local geologist to look at your plot of land. A geologist can tell you about the soil quality, presence of surface water and ground water, and probably explain many environmental concerns.
 
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Lukas Rohrbach wrote:

Devin Lavign wrote:Please do not get land next to a gold operation.

Yes they use cyanide and other very toxic chemicals in the processing of it. It never stays contained and always gets into the ground water. Longer they have been at the site worse off the contamination will be. With those water basins, please find another option.



Yes some mines are using cyanide and sulphuric acid for gold recovery, others are using harmless gravity circuits that don't use any chemicals at all. Since the operation is close to a river bed, I would suggest the latter (placer mining). If it even is a mine - there is no information on this, and sure there is no way to tell from a low resolution satellite image.
Some mining operations are environmentally safe, others are not. Some mines grow eatable fish in their wastewater ponds.



This thread is  a few months old, so probably the discussion is moot.  But just in case:

As a former water quality lawyer for the gold mining industry, I can say with some confidence that while nothing is 100%, contamination is definitely the way to bet if you can't get good certain information.  And buying land is a really big bet!

In a desert with only three inches of rain a year, gravity circuits and placer mining are unlikely; the water demand is too high.  And even if that's what they are doing, they'll be using expensive chemical surfactants (fancy soaps and detergents) so they can keep recirculating the water even after it gets loaded with sediments and still have it "work" to wash the gold free of the sediments.  Those surfactants are not dish soap; they are bad mojo.  And they leach into the ground water very easily.

The low resolution satellite image is plenty good to show lots and lots of buildings.  That suggests a complicated processing infrastructure.  Which means lots of chemical steps, which means lots of contamination.  Placer mining is very simple.  One big processing plant, you put material in one end with lots of water, you get tailings and sludge out the other end, you collect the water in a pond and circulate it back around to pump it through again.  You do not get fish in that pond because the water is carrying all the sediment it will bear.  

The only place you will ever find fish in a pond at a gold mine is at a fancy demonstration project assembled by one of the big international mine operators like Rio Tinto to show off for journalists and NGOs.  They'll have a dedicated staff of water chemists making sure that pond stays within parameters for their demonstration fish.  It doesn't happen otherwise.  Except possibly where a mine design means that they need, like eight tailings ponds for periods of high volume mining, but during low volume operations they are only using three ponds, but the mine is in a wet environment so the other five ponds just fill up with surface water and rainwater, but no tailings are being added for months or years.  

A gold mine is nobody's best neighbor choice for a permaculture property. It might be OK, but it might be a toxic nightmare, and the two possibilities are not even close to roughly equal!

 
No. No. No. No. Changed my mind. Wanna come down. To see this tiny ad:
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