Gold is found in the Yanacocha Mine in microscopic bits. One hundred tons of earth need to be removed for every ounce of gold extracted. The large volumes of material are dumped onto a lined leach pad, and cyanide solution is sprayed over it. The cyanide binds with the gold and causes a solution enriched with gold to settle at the bottom. The gold can then be extracted from that solution.
Environmental risks of large-scale open pit mining are complex and uncertain. One impact is the potential risk of cyanide contamination on soil and water. Satellite data along with ground studies can help show the land change effects of mining operations, such as groundwater quality and watershed changes.