SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: June 16, 2019
SNIP: Crystallisation is a transition from chaos to perfection; the evolution of the crystal industry has been less simple. Millions of years ago liquid rock inside the earth cooled and hardened, and this is how crystals formed at the twinkling centre of the earth. Piece by piece they’ve been mined to become the centre, too, of an international industry that hangs on their rumoured metaphysical healing properties. But recently something else has emerged from the rocks – a darker truth. Rather than connecting with the earth, those buying crystals are damaging it, fatally.
In three short years, crystals have risen from niche new age interest to valid hobby, firmly embedded in the mainstream consciousness. In 2017 crystals became a multibillion-dollar slice of the $4.2trn global wellness industry, with shamans using them to advise entrepreneurs on investment opportunities, and Gwyneth Paltrow selling them to encourage serenity and to “purify” water. Their investment status is compared to fine art.
But while it’s claimed crystals help people harness the energy of the earth, the more they are mined, the more that earth is suffering. Here is the dirty truth of crystals, and it’s not simply that their efficacy as healing objects is unproven. It’s that, as Emily Atkin at The New Republic reported last year, their origins are murky, and their environmental impact worrying. Much like diamonds, crystal mining is an industry buried in conflict. There are issues around sustainability: crystals are a non-renewable resource. There are issues around labour: most jobs are low paid, unsafe, and sometimes performed by underage workers. And there is an issue around accountability: the industry is unregulated, allowing exploitation to go unchecked.
“Mining has an environmental impact, whether it’s for ‘healing crystals’, the copper in your phone, or the gold in your ring,” explains Payal Sampat of nonprofit organisation Earthworks. The quote marks are her own. “‘Healing crystals’ are mined in places like Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo where mineral extraction is linked to severe human-rights violations and environmental harm.” In the DRC, seven-year-old children work in the cobalt and copper mines, where covetable “healing” stones such as citrine and smoky quartz abound. International NGO Global Witness found that the Taliban earns up to $20m a year from Afghanistan’s lapis mines, lapis lazuli being, as crystal websites explain, one of the best stones for activating psychic abilities. “As with most minerals,” adds Sampat, “it is impossible to know for sure if your crystal was obtained via an environmental and human rights horror show.”
The truth is, many retailers have no idea where their crystals come from. Many, like tourmaline, amethyst, quartz and citrine (used to “manifest abundance and prosperity”) are found in gold, copper or cobalt mines, but even publicly traded industrial mines aren’t required to disclose profits from byproducts.