Many of the Tibetan communities found near the proposed mining sites rely on agricultural based economy. Mine operations will destroy grazing lands, negatively impacting the livelihood of local residents. In some cases the desecration of lands cause by mine construction will force entire villages to be relocated.
Most concerning is the discovery of gold and copper deposits in areas of intensive land use, in central Tibet and near the Sino-Tibetan border. These regions already support greater concentrations of Tibetans and agricultural practices are intensive, involving steep hillsides and other marginal areas. The increased pressure from a growing non Tibetan immigrant population is likely to have a disastrous effect on the region and lead to potential conflict between Tibetan and non Tibetan residents.
In addition, much of the copper and gold is found in conjunction with arsenic-laden pyrite, a kind of rock formation. The arsenic is released when the desired metals are extracted. Arsenic poisoning caused by human use of groundwater has already become a major health hazard in many areas of Asia. The Tibetan plateau is the source of headwaters of several great rivers of Asia, and contamination of these waters would affect millions of people locally and downstream.