Crystals: Healing or Hurting?

By Julia Kemp

From jasper to obsidian and from citrine to amethyst, people all around the globe have been fixated on a wellness quest involving crystals among crystals. Taking pop culture by storm, crystals have consumed the feeds of celebrities, such as Katy Perry, Adele, and Gweneth Paltrow, as well as exhausted the TikTok platform with 117 million views under #crystals. While many crystal enthusiasts use the appealing gems in an effort to ensure peace and happiness among themselves and the people around them, many are unaware of the extremely harmful process of mining and selling crystals. Crystal companies often violate human rights standards as well as desecrate the environment, hypocritically placing crystal-users, who often emphasize positivity and healing, in an unknowing position of harm towards others and the earth.

Like in the oil, copper, and infamous diamond industries, crystals are sourced from mineral-rich impoverished countries. Countries like Madagascar, which sits on masses of rose quartz, rely on human labor, rather than machines, to mine these highly-demanded pink rocks. While there are a few large-scale crystal mines that adhere to ethical labor practices, the 80% of crystals that are advertised as “artisanal” are truly just mined by small groups and families in back-breaking and deadly conditions. Faced with risks of landslides, impalement by the sharp and jagged crystals, or inhalation of sand and crystal residue, mine workers live under constant fear of death or lung cancer. Not only are groups of adults working in horrible environments for extremely low pay (80% living under the $1.90-an-hour poverty line), but also children. According to the US Department of Labor and the International Labour Organization, around 85,000 children work in perilous Madagascar mines. Mines in Madagascar and other impoverished countries are forced to overlook the human rights abuses so prevalent in their crystal mines due to the boom in crystal popularity.

Not only are crystal miners put in dangerous working conditions, but also mines, which are dug deep into the earth, horribly damage the environment. Brazil, for example, digs deep into rain forest lands to mine the natural amethyst, quartz, and citrine without considering the environmental consequences that follow. In 2018, the Amazon Geo-Referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network discovered that Brazil was exploiting the untouched resources of the Amazon Rainforest, an already misused natural gem, to accumulate wealth. Even Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, snuffed numerous prepositions to end harmful crystal mining and attempted to sooth environmental struggles because of his greed for the money stacked in the crystal industry. Stated Bolsonaro, “Where there is indigenous land, there is wealth underneath it.” Brazil’s government, along with so many others’, draws on their natural resources to accumulate wealth without a thought towards the unavoidable environmental consequences. Crystal users on social media often do not see the side of corruption in the crystal industry which goes against their own positive beliefs. 

Overall, the crystal industry does invalidate the mantras that crystal-users abide by; mantras of peace and love that people dedicate their souls (and money) to when buying crystals ultimately become useless when they purchase crystals. The horrible environmental and ethical consequences of mining, selling, and using crystals simply and completely hurt rather than heal.