While the citizens of the snow-capped and picturesque Swiss village of Medel Valley is well aware that a gold mine lies literally underneath their feet, they have repeatedly rebuffed the chance to reap the benefits of the gold deposited below the ground. The reason for denying themselves the wealth hidden below is that eighty percent of the eligible voting population from the town (with a population of 450) claims they worry about the impact the mines would have on both the environment and their well-preserved culture.
Gold and the economy has long been an issue. With gold prices being at an all-time high, the five tiny villages of the Medel Valley could expect payouts exceeding $40 million over the next decade. While that number may seem lucrative for many, the inhabitants of Medel Valley are concerned that foreign mine workers would compromise the unique culture of the area. The Medel Valley is one of the few areas of Switzerland that still speaks Romansch, a 2,000 year old language that descended from the Latin spoken by the Roman legions of centuries ago.
The company interested in mining the area is Vancouver based NV Gold. Based on preliminary drilling and expert evaluations, the firm estimates that the rock contains ten grams of gold per ton, which is double that of the typical mine. The company’s CEO, John Watson, claims that the mine could yield over 800,000 ounces of gold. This amount of gold could exceed $1.2 billion of today’s dollars. Although royalties from the project could cut taxes, enable businesses to be offered cheap loans, and pump money into new investments and programs benefitting the Mendel Valley, over half the citizens continue to oppose.
Currently, 90 of the Mendel Valley’s citizens are over the age of 75. As the population continues to age, and the younger generations are forced to flee the area for education and work, the opinions of the inhabitants might change. In fact, the mayor of the valley, Peter Binz, is one of the project’s core backers. According to Binz, the mine would have brought fresh blood and new opportunities. He refers to the village as a “museum” and hopes that the citizens will eventually change their minds.
Unlike many parts of Switzerland, the Mendel Valley doesn’t boast any ski slopes or resorts, and the few that do know about the area come for cross-country skiing or fishing during the summer. Only time will tell in regards to whether or not the town will decide to let miners begin the process, or perhaps, the real question is when.