DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR GOLD COMES FROM?
Humans’ fascination with gold is as old as recorded history. Almost every established culture has used gold to symbolize power, beautify, purity and accomplishment. From the Ancient Egyptians in 3000 BC to the modern US Treasury, there has been few metals that have had such an influential role.
Gold’s uses are countless. Because of gold’s diversity of properties, it can be utilized as a conductor, can be easily melted and hammered, drawn into wire, and cast into highly detailed shapes. Gold today is embedded into the fabric of our world economy and in products that we use on a daily basis.
Uses for gold
- Financial Markets
- Glass *Dental
- Medical Instruments
How is your gold mined?
In many cases, gold comes from a CLEAN SOURCE with regulations that help decrease the damage to the earth.
However, some of the gold mining practices TODAY has led to a growing THREAT to the world’s environment.
What is Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM)?
Artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) is a type of gold mining conducted by individual miners or small enterprises with limited capital investment and production. In most cases the miners use MERCURY in the process, and operate in poor conditions, with no controls or regulations. Unfortunately this type of mining can DESTROY the environment leaving in its wake WASTELANDS POISONED with mercury and other toxic chemicals. ASGM can also be ILLEGAL, attracting an onset of criminal activities.
ASGM can be found in over 80 COUNTRIES and can involve as many as 10 million people worldwide. Research suggests that 12-30% of gold production comes from ASGM.
Artisanal and small scale mining is the largest source of human caused MERCURY POLLUTION in the world-even more that the burning of fossil fuels globally. Mercury poisoning can cause serious health issues including brain damage, nerve and organ damage, memory loss and even possibly a shortened life span.
Do you know where your gold comes from?
The difficulty with identifying cleanly sourced gold is that most gold is refined at large plants that do not distinguish between sources. There is not a consistent clean supply chain so most of the gold goes into one melting part where it is then refined and sold to the consumer. This operational process makes it very difficult for gold retailers and consumers to determine where the gold was mined or what practices were used.
Today a few gold consumers and refineries are implementing voluntary policies to improve their gold sourcing operations. Awareness is beginning to spread and groups are organizing to demand a clean supply chain. Jewelers and purchasers are beginning to promote more sustainable and ethical materials to not only protect the environment, but also have a positive impact on the communities and lives of workers. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining provides families with an opportunity to escape poverty. To completely remove or halt the process would be ineffective. What miners need is access to better technology and working conditions. It is possible to mine for gold in a way that isn’t as harmful to our planet and people.
BUT dirty gold mining continues…wreaking havoc on the planet.
What is ASGM doing to the Amazon?
The DESTRUCTIVE practice of ASGM is HAPPENING in the AMAZON causing deforestation, soil erosion, loss of habitat, the extinction of species, organized crime, corruption, child slavery, money laundering, and the poisoning of the land, rivers, the animals and the people’s by the mercury used in the mining process.
See for yourself and witness the deforestation of the Amazon through illicit and unregulated gold mining through Amazon Aid’s documentary “River of Gold”.
Why should you care?
The Amazon is the most critical natural land buffer against climate change, has the highest numbers of plants and animals, carries 20% of the earths fresh water to sea, is home to countless indigenous peoples, and releases approximately 20 billion tons of moisture into the atmosphere every day! Wow the Amazon is IMPORTANT!
What can you do?
Be aware and share
Gold is in many things from your cell phone to the jewelry you wear.
Ask questions and buy cleanly sourced gold.
- Ask your jeweler/or gold supplier where the gold came from.
- Is it fair-trade and fair-mined?
- Is the gold conflict and cruelty free?
- Is your gold recycled? Precious metals can be recycled repeatedly with no degradation in quality, they are a renewable and a natural resource.
- Support calls to action to buy from companies that responsibly source their gold.
- Spread awareness of this issue by sharing your knowledge. Work on creative projects to educate parents, families, and communities about the impact of gold mining in the Amazon and it’s indirect link to consumers in the US who buy gold.
- Support Online efforts to raise awareness about Amazon Aid/NGOs efforts.
- Develop a plan with your school to educate local jewelers/chain stores about supply chains.
- Produce an animated short, short film, song or art project -post it on the Voices portal.
- Write letters to governments who do not properly compensate people who have been affected by pollution from mining companies.
- Support organizations that are working to clean up the supply chain for gold
What are some organizations you can support?
Amazon Aid Foundation
AAF’s documentary film “River of Gold”, education curriculum, social impact campaign and resource guides educate and activate global audiences and build coalitions from grassroots efforts to governmental policy to demand a clean supply chain for sustainably mined gold. Join our voice.
EARTHWORKS and Oxfam America have launched a No Dirty Gold campaign, which asks companies to sign a Golden Rule pledge. “No Dirty Gold” is not calling for a boycott of gold. They are demanding changes in the way that metals are extracted and produced – all too often at the expense of communities, workers, and the environment. They are demanding alternatives to “dirty” – or irresponsibly produced – metals.
Multiple jewelers and gold refinery companies have signed the pledge.
Argor-Heraeus is significantly involved in bringing responsible gold to the market place. They are working closely with several agencies that support clean gold production, by guaranteeing offtake of that gold.
The Responsible Jewelry Council that consists of jewelers trying to do responsible gold sourcing.
Initiates mercury programmes around the world to introduce mercury-reducing technologies to artisanal mining communities in order to lessen the impact on human health and the environment.
Estelle Levin Ltd, gold supply chain including a project called Gold and Illicit Financial Flows Project (The GIFF Project).
PACT supply chain for gold (and other minerals/gems) called Mines to Market
Solidaridad -responsible gold sourcing program
Places to shop for gold:
Reflective Jewelry is the the only “Fairtrade Gold” certified jeweler in the United States. Ethically sourced and handmade, Reflective Jewelry has also made a serious commitment to financially supporting the causes they care about. When you enter the code AAF at checkout 20% of your purchase price will go to support the Amazon Aid Foundation.
In April 2012, Target signed the “No Dirty Gold” pledge, and agreed to begin sourcing its gold supply from environmentally and socially responsible mining companies.
Wal-Mart, the largest jewelry retailer in the world, has begun selling its Love, Earth® brand of jewelry, which is produced under improved environmental conditions. Additionally, all pieces of Love, Earth® can be traced back to their mine of origin. Learn more about the Love, Earth® policies here. Wal-Mart has established a working group with a goal of further improving its gold sourcing policies. Wal-Mart has also stated a goal of including recycled and repurposed metals in its Love, Earth® jewelry line.
JC Penney has been a member of the Responsible Jewelry Council since 2007. Recognition as a Certified Member of the RJC ensures third party verification of gold sourcing and chain-of-supply practices. In addition to its membership with the RJC, JC Penney has a robust corporate social responsibility policy, which includes environmental principles. Although the policy does not specify the company’s gold sourcing practices, JC Penney does strive to adhere to all national and international environmental laws and improve its internal standards.
Alex and Ani
Alex and Ani is a United States-based company that dedicates itself to supporting sustainable initiatives and creating high-quality pieces. The materials they use are sustainable and derived from eco-conscious processes, and all items are manufactured in America.
D&H Sustainable Jewelers
For D&H Sustainable Jewelers sustainable development means “a sustained economic growth as a world community, while holding a commitment to protecting the environment, both near and far.” They use one of the world’s largest precious metals recycling facilities to reclaim their metal and even use metals reclaimed from old electronics. All of their diamonds are conflict free and have their original source information. Learn more about their sustainability policies and diamond policies on their website.
Fred Meyer Jewelers
Fred Meyer has been a member of the Responsible Jewelry Council since 2009. Recognition as a Certified Member of the RJC ensures third party verification of gold sourcing and chain-of-supply practices. Fred Meyer does not currently provide any information on their website about their gold sourcing practices.
Helzberg Diamonds has a corporate policy that requires its gold suppliers to refrain from purchasing gold that was mined in locations recognized by certain organizations as high conservation areas. This includes areas designated as International Union for Conservation of Nature categories i-iv. Helzberg does not provide information regarding its verification procedure.
Kay Jewelers, Jared Galleria (Signet Jewelers Limited)
Kay Jewelers and Jared Galleria are a member of the Responsible Jewelry Council (through their parent company Signet Jewelers). As members of the RJC, their gold sourcing practices are subject to verification by independent auditors. Kay and Jared also support the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA).
Melissa Joy Manning
Melissa Joy Manning promises the use of sustainable processes and stones as well as a sustainable company culture. Their pieces are made from 100% recycled gold and silver, and their metal is sourced from a refinery that has the highest available environmental standards – filtering gases, producing less waste, and recycling water throughout the process. Only 30% of their stones are bought internationally and they attempt to buy directly from mine owners. Diamonds are only sourced from partners who promise to adhere to The Kimberly Process. They ensure that they treat their artists and employees with a living wage and benefits, and try to only invest in organizations who do the same. Learn more about their sustainable promises here.
Sulusso goes above and beyond to avoid conflict-free jewelry – by avoiding it all together. They only use eco-friendly, ethically sourced, fair-trade and responsible materials and manufacturing. You can find explanations of what ethically sourced gems, lab-created gems, and fair-trade supplier are on their website. They explain what their sustainability jewelry is, the issues involved with conflict gems and diamonds, and why they decided to go green.
Wind and Fire Jewelry
Wind and Fire Jewelry states that their core values are established in social, economic and environmental responsibility. Their products are made in the USA from recycled brass, and their jewelry collections are finished with antique gold or silver. They have also taken a pro-active approach to supporting local non-profits that benefit the community through donations and a “Charms for Charity Bangles” program.
Zales Jewelers, Gordon’s Jewelers (Zale Corporation)
Zales has a code of conduct that requires its business partners to conduct their businesses in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Unfortunately, little information about the specific expectations or practices is available to the public. Additionally, the demand that the company’s partners comply with national and environmental laws is insufficient for environmental protection due to lax environmental laws in many countries.
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