The two stereotypes that I've seen the most about Dwarves are that they live in mountains and mine for precious metals and the like. Recently, I've been thinking of an interesting place to take that.

At the moment, I've had some dwarves (mostly miners and smiths) live and work in and around this large mountain. This mountain contains veins of silver, and a spring that feeds into a river. Downstream from this river is where most of the farmers and merchants for this kingdom live.

My question is, is it possible for the runoff from this mountain mine to cause cases of argyria in the people that live in the village downstream?

  • $\begingroup$ To avoid dwarf stereotyping, I want jungle-dwelling dwarves and their unstoppable jaguar cavalry! $\endgroup$
    – akaioi
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ That is not a bad is $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ @akaioi Freaking IPad keyboard. I meant to say that is not a bad idea. I never said these mountain dwarves were the only dwarves I'd be making. These points could likely apply to any fantasy race that happens to get into mining. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ It would be more likely that the dwarves themselves would turn purple before the human settlements would. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thats what I've been thinking as well $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


I would say that it’s highly unlikely unless the amount of silver present in the mine is of enormous proportions and the Dwarves are highly incompetent in extracting the silver from the ore and wash a lot of it into the river. Even then it sounds unlikely.

According to this article it would take 5 µg/(kg·d) of silver over an extended period to cause serious problems. If the river contains sufficient silver to provide 0.2-0.5mg/day to the farmers in their drinking water, the farmers will not need to get any silver from the Dwarves as they can mine the river by diverting it into settling pools! Or dredge it from lakes.

  • $\begingroup$ I would assume the dwarves mining the silver would be more likely to develop the condition before the settlements would. But yeah ill agree with slarty $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 21:09

Wasn't going to answer, but @Lot-of-Malarkey has made statements I choose to interpret as a promise of jaguar-riding dwarves, so I'm in...

I think @Slarty makes good points on how the scale of the dwarf mining operation may be too low for causing real problems. There are specific techniques they can use to lessen runoff; more details than you want, here: http://www.miningfacts.org/Environment/How-is-water-managed-and-treated-in-mining/ Other considerations:

  • Could be dwarf kingdom straddles two watersheds (not uncommon, if your kingdom is a mountain range, neh?). I bet the communities on either side might bid for the right to have the dwarves do their processing on the other side this year...

  • Per above, but the dwarves might just split their operations and do half on either side, thus halving the annoyance to each downstream community

  • Not a long term problem. Before long, the dwarves will delve too deep, and too greedily, and, well...

  • Dwarves don't have to do their processing right by the spring. They can move the ore down to a local depression far from the waterways and process it there. They might have to build an aqueduct to bring water in, in this case. This will raise the cost of silver, but hey. They have a silver mine, they can afford it.

  • $\begingroup$ Good solutions. I probably won't have argyria develop in this way now, but this is some good world building. As for the jaguar-riding dwarves, I might drop an ask if I have any good ideas, but if you post an ask on it I'll probably weigh in. Might I direct you to this question? (worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/26003/…) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 5:05

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