Healing crystals are super popular right now. Not only are they popping up all over our social media feeds, but the wellness world is going crystal-crazy, infusing crystals into moisturizers, balms, and even drinking water.
Maybe it sounds a little absurd, but at this rate of growth, healing crystals are potentially a billion dollar industry. But as the industry grows, its dirty little cracks become a lot more visible.
Healing crystals are beautiful natural rock formations that are said to metaphysically shift and balance the energy of the user.
Some stones absorb negativity, like rose quartz, while others, like carnelian, are purported to improve confidence and vitality. They are meant to soothe and heal energy blockages throughout the body–and happen look pretty on your bedside table while doing it. But the way these stones are actually harvested is anything but pretty.
THE DARK SIDE OF THE CRYSTALS INDUSTRY
Crystals are generally a byproduct of the large-scale strip mining industry. As in the same one that unearths diamonds, gold, coal, and copper. As in the incredibly pollutive industry that is responsible for deforestation, soil erosion, groundwater contamination, and air pollution. As in the mining industry that is infamous for using child labor and maintaining inhumane, unethical working conditions.
Mining healing crystals can be a very dirty business, but there has been absolutely no effort towards transparency for consumers. Until now.
Here’s how large-scale crystal mining generally happens. Large industrial mines often inadvertently unearth bands of high-quality crystals as a profitable byproduct to their intended booty.
Since these aren’t the intended products of the mining, most mines aren’t required to disclose the actual details about these byproducts. They simply report the profits they made from the byproducts in total to shareholders. So, the public has no way of knowing what crystals were actually mined, which makes it hugely challenging to trace a healing crystal back to its precise origin.
The mining industry makes it difficult, if not nearly impossible, for most sellers to track a particular crystal back to its original mine, or even its country of origin. They may simply not know, but we need to know where our crystals come from.
Many crystals are sourced from countries that have few environmental regulations and labor laws, meaning the harvesting of your crystals may have violated basics human rights along with global environmental ones.
Mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, use children as young as 7 to work in their dangerous mines to unearth these peaceful, healing, and positivity-enhancing stones. The New York Times has compared Myanmar’s jade industry to that of blood diamonds, its profits steeped in ethnic conflict, rampant drug use, and abuse.
There is proof that many crystals actually do come from these unethical and environmentally-destructive mines. The website Minfind, an online crystal shop run by Mindat (a vast mineral database), is one of the few online shops that is able to describe the mines where each specimen was uncovered.
Some of these mines are notoriously dirty. For instance, the Tyrone Copper Mine in New Mexico, where this chrysocolla was sourced, causes severe water pollution due to waste products, acid runoff, and mineral runoff. This is not only devastating to local animals and wildlife, but it puts New Mexico’s clean water supply in danger.
HOW TO FIND ETHICAL HEALING CRYSTALS
Whether you are a fan of the healing powers of these crystals or are convinced that the powers reported from healing crystals are just a placebo effect (or you just think they’re pretty), we can all agree that they shouldn’t be causing such ethical and environmental devastation. That’s why it is important to source ethical crystals. Luckily, there are a handful of small, low-impact crystal mines scattered throughout the US.
The cream of the crop may be Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines in Mount Ida, Arkansas, which boasts a hugely sustainable operation with zero carbon footprint. You can actually go there and hand-mine your own crystals if you’d like.
They have a pretty green operation. They plant trees to offset equipment exhaust, fight water pollution with settlement ponds, prioritize use of solar energy, and restore the mined earth so it may again grow plant life rather than existing as an ugly, rocky scar in nature. It’s actually clean mining, and it is crystal exclusive.
Not everyone can get down to Arkansas to mine their own quartz, so what about ethical sourcing online? There are a handful of stores that promote ethically sourced crystals, including Kacha Stones and Energy Muse, but they don’t list their crystal sources. Their websites simply assure the consumer that they hold high standards for how and where they source their crystals.
Since most crystals are generally collected by buyers at trade shows rather indiscriminately for the best price, this is a big step in the right direction.
The issue is that, although many purveyors of healing crystals promote ‘sustainable and ethical sourcing’, they provide the consumer with little evidence to back it up. They do not usually list the mine (not to mention the country) of origin in the product description, because they may simply not know.
Crystals pass through many hands before they make their way to yours–mines, cutters, tumblers, various buyers and sellers. Without any sort of global regulation, tracing a crystal back to its source is almost impossible for small shop owners and consumers alike.
The good news is that the desire for ethically-sourced crystals is growing.
In a metaphysical way, it makes sense. Is a healing crystal really filled with good, healing energy if it was mined in a harmful manner? Would you feel as good about using those healing crystals that were mined through pollutive and abusive practices by children? Probably not.
While small shop owners may not have the funds and influence to be able to trace the origin of their healing crystals back to ensure ethical sourcing, larger, more influential companies can.
Lifestyle guru, Gwyneth Paltrow, sells an $85 medicine bag of healing crystals on her popular website, Goop. While none of the crystals have any sourcing information, the site claims that the bag of 8 small crystals “has been energetically cleansed with sage, tuned with sound waves, activated with mantras, and blessed with Reiki.”
Sorry Goop, but no matter how much you bless your overpriced stones, it doesn’t change the environmental and humanitarian damage that lies in their past. It’s bad vibes, and we don’t have to stand for it.