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August 6, 2012


The pursuit of gold medals has athletes and fans focused on the Olympic games in London, but the pursuit of gold is a worldwide obsession that extends far beyond the realm of sport. Investors and speculators drove the price of gold to dizzying heights a year ago as they sought refuge from volatile markets. Seeking gain in an uncertain recession, millions of people trade old jewelry as cash-for-gold businesses flourish. Throughout the ups and downs, gold extraction continues far from the glory of sports and the frenzy of markets. Gold is dredged, mined, and panned in operations large and small, often at great risk to miners. Processing gold with cyanide and other chemicals involves dangerous environmental hazards. What results is undeniably beautiful. Gathered here are images of people extracting, processing, refining, buying, selling, celebrating… all of them going for gold. -- Lane Turner (36 photos total)

A small-scale miner holds his gold that was melted together at a processing plant north of Ulan Bator on April 5, 2012. Mongolia is home to some of the world's biggest unexploited mineral deposits, and has become one of the hottest destinations for billions of dollars of mining investment. (David Gray/Reuters)

Reynaldo Elejorde, a former farmer and now a small-scale miner, shows a gold tooth made from particles he and his family gathered at a mining site in Mt. Diwata in Mindanao, Philippines. The Philippines is believed to have some of the biggest mineral reserves in the world -- the government estimates the country has at least 840 billion USD in gold, copper, nickel, chromite, manganese, silver and iron ore deposits, but the minerals have been largely untapped, partly because of a strong anti-mining movement led by the influential Catholic Church. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/GettyImages) #

An informal gold miner is roughed up by Peruvian riot policemen during clashes in the town of Puerto Maldonado, Peru on March 14, 2012. More than sixty people were arrested,at least three people killed, and 29 injured during protests against a new government decree that criminalizes illegal mining activity. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

The gold and copper mine of US giant Newmont in Indonesia's Sumbawa island dominates the landscape in a file photograph from April 4, 2007. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/GettyImages) #

Polluted water flows from an abandoned gold mine in Rosia Montana, Romania on September 20, 2011. A Canadian company wants to build a controversial open pit mine that would use large amounts of cyanide. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/GettyImages) #

The cloudy spots on an undated chest X-ray shows the effects of silicosis on a gold miner. In 2011, South Africa said gold miners with silicosis could sue for compensation, and thousands plan to do just that. (NIOH/NHLS/Handout/Reuters) #

Miners Jacinto Pariona (right) and Edwin Sarmiento eat at a public hospital after being rescued from the Cabeza de Negro gold-and-copper mine in Ica, Peru on April 11, 2012. Nine miners were trapped inside for six days. (Martin Mejia/Associated Press) #

Residents inside a funeral parlor in Pantukan, Philippines look at the body of a girl killed in a landslide in a remote small community of gold prospectors on January 5, 2012. At least 25 people were killed and about 100 others were missing. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A girl pans for gold in the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar's Kachin State on February 24, 2012, earning from $3-12 a day. A day's work yields an amount of gold roughly the size of a grain or two of rice. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters) #

Papuan villagers gather in a river to pan for gold after sludge containing gold leaked from a pipeline of US mining giant Freeport-McMoran in Kwamki Lama, Indonesia. Striking Freeport workers said the leak was due to corrosion and were demanding at least an eight-fold increase in the current minimum wage of $1.50 an hour. (Tjahjono Eranius/AFP/Getty Images) #

Mechanics work on a mining truck at the Newmont Mining Corp. gold quarry mine in the Carlin Trend west of Elko, Nevada on January 25, 2012. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg) #

An informal gold digger looks for gold in the sand of a creek in the mountains of San Juan Arriba, Honduras on February 7, 2012. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images) #

A miner carries a sack of stones containing gold material at the Poboya gold mine in Indonesia on April 19, 2012. Some 1.1 million people are employed in Indonesia's formal mining sector. (Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters) #

Artisanal gold miners pass up pans of sediment from an open-cast mine near the town of Mongbwalu, Democratic Republic of Congo on April 28, 2012. It is one of many areas of the country to have experienced bitter ethnic conflict between rival tribes in recent years. Massacres have left tens of thousands dead. (Jonny Hogg/Reuters) #

Dave Maxfield of Hardwick, Mass. and his wife Christy lift their sluice out of the water while panning for gold in the Wild Ammonoosuc River in Bath, N.H. on July 13, 2012. (Cheryl Senter for the Boston Globe) #

A man repairs a damaged water pump at a gold mine in Madre de Dios, Peru on August 25, 2011. Perhaps nowhere else in the Amazon is the battle between mining's economic possibility and environmental impact more apparent than in the state of Madre de Dios, where thousands of people depend on the industry to survive and a majority of miners operate illegally. (Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg) #

Miners push a trolley loaded with ore materials for processing at a mining site in the village of Mt. Diwata in Mindanao, Philippines on July 17, 2012. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/GettyImages) #

A worker walks through the Pueblo Viejo mine in Sanchez Ramirez province in the Dominican Republic on March 20, 2012. One of the world’s largest gold mining operations, run by a joint venture of Canadian companies Barrick Gold and Goldcorp, is about to open in the Dominican Republic, where the industry has a toxic legacy of pollution that stained rivers a searing red and failed to lift the fortunes of this largely poor country. (Manuel Diaz/Associated Press) #

An employee of KCM pours molten gold while reprocessing it near Plovdiv, Bulgaria on October 20, 2011. (Stoyan Nenov/Reuters) #

Gold is poured at Agnico-Eagle's Meadowbank Mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada on August 24, 2011. (Chris Wattie/Reuters) #

Gold bars are displayed at a jewelery shop in Chandigarh, India on May 8, 2012. India is the world's biggest buyer of bullion. (Ajay Verma/Reuters) #

Indonesian police clash with striking workers of US gold and copper mining company Freeport McMoran in Timika, Indonesia on October 10, 2011 where police shot and killed one protester and wounded another after the striking workers pelted them with stones, injuring seven policemen. (Tjahjo Eranius/AFP/Getty Images) #

Andean people protest against Newmont's proposed $4.8 billion Conga gold mine near the Cortada lagoon in Cajamarca, Peru on November 24, 2011. Protesters and farmers say the mine would cause pollution and hurt water supplies by replacing a string of alpine lakes with artificial reservoirs. (Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters) #

Traders work in the gold and silver options pit at the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York on August 24, 2011. Gold plunged in the biggest drop since December 2008. (Jin Lee/Bloomberg) #

Javed Maseeh sweeps the pavement as he searches for gold at a gold market in Peshawar on July 3, 2011. When shops close, Pakistan's gold scavengers sift through dirt and sewers for precious dust particles. (A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images) #

Security guard Gus Rodriguez stands outside "El Palacio de Oro" jewelry store in downtown Los Angeles on August 25, 2011. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press) #

A shop assistant sells gold bars at a gold shop in Beijing on October 26, 2011. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Locals stand on the Phaung Daw (Royal Boat) during the annual 18-day Phaung Daw Oo festival at Inle Lake, Myanmar on October 4, 2011. The boat houses five statues of Buddha gilded with gold leaf, which are believed to have been brought there by one of the kings of Bagan in the 11th century. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters) #

An Oscar statuette is dipped in an electrically charged tub as it is plated with gold at the R.S. Owens factory in Chicago on December 6, 2011. (Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images) #

Buddhist monks pray as worshippers put gold leaves onto a seated Buddha image at the Mahamuni temple in Mandalay, Myanmar on February 4, 2012. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images) #

Angelito "Karat Chef" Araneta Jr. looks at his edible water dragon sculpture made of gum-paste icing inside a restaurant in Manila on January 20, 2012. The sculpture is coated with 24k gold leaf and adorned with 17 Mikimoto pearls and two diamonds on the eyeballs. Angelito made the sculpture, which costs around 600,000 pesos ($13,863), for the Lunar New Year. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters) #

Goldsmiths craft ornaments at a workshop in Kolkata on March 26, 2012. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters) #

Old jewelry made from gold is melted down at Zorka, a jewelry factory in Minsk on April 26, 2012. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters) #

Jewelry and silver and gold coins dating back to the Roman period that were recently discovered at an excavation site near kiryat Gat, in Jerusalem are displayed on June 4, 2012. (Sharon Gal/AFP/GettyImages) #

A client whose face is covered with gold is seen at the Viet My beauty salon in Hanoi on February 13, 2012. Viet My is one of a small number of salons in Vietnam that provides 24k gold leaf face mask therapy, said to help make skin whiter. A single facial costs 1.8 million Vietnam dong ($86.41). (Kham/Reuters) #

South Korea's Oh Jin Hyek bites his gold medal during the victory ceremony for the men's individual archery event at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Lord's Cricket Ground on August 3, 2012. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)#