Gold miners all a-buzz after honey bees give go-ahead for mining

Posted Aug 24, 2013 by Anne Sewell
A gold company has determined that their mine in northern Spain can be re-opened, after an analysis of the pollen and nectar collected from two colonies of 40,000 honey bees has proved it to be safe.
A bee
A bee
By Bob Peterson from North Palm Beach, Florida, Planet Earth! [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.
Spanish NGO Wild Animal Protection Fund (FAPAS) is responsible for the revelation, with its director, Roberto Hartasánchez, telling El País: "It's a simple, quick, natural and efficient method."
According to Hartasánchez, the analysis-by-bee reveals the amount of contaminating heavy metals in the soil, and costs a mere €300.
Asturgold, the owner of the mine, has seen a lot of opposition in the past from local residents. For this reason they asked FAPAS to assist with biodiversity conservation models for the area, located in Tapia de Casariego, Asturias.
In response, FAPAS felt that the mine must take environmental impact into consideration.
To do this, last July FAPAS placed two bee colonies on the site of the mine, using controls to guarantee that the only nectar that they collected would be from plants within the local area.
Over summer and early autumn the site was busy with honey bees buzzing backwards and forwards.
Hartasánchez continued:
"As plants obtain their nutrients from the soil, if there is contamination then we can be sure that it is proportionally reflected in their flowers."
"In this manner we can detect contamination levels."
Adding that results from the nectar collected in September indicated that the levels of naturally-occurring but potentially dangerous heavy metals, such as arsenic and mercury, on the site "were within normal values."
The gold mine hosts one of the largest unexploited deposits in western Europe, and was originally mined by the Romans.
Last December, the mine passed a a partial environmental impact inspection, but that did not include any possible treatment plant or slurry deposits. For that reason, the company has said that it will only carry out cyanide treatment of mined gold outside of Spain.
It seems this is yet another reason for honey bees to be protected in this world. Not only do they pollinate our plants, but they can also detect contamination.