In many cases, gold comes from clean and responsible sources, with ‎regulations that help decrease the damage to the earth.

However, some gold mining practices from the artisanal and small scale mining sector (ASGM)  are illicit and unregulated and are now a growing threat to the global environment and to people. ASGM is also devastating the world’s forests, including the Amazon rainforest. 

This illicit and unregulated gold oftentimes makes its way into the supply chain. 

You could be wearing this illicit gold now.

Areas which were once covered with lush rainforest have been turned into barren and toxic wastelands – all for the price of gold.

Trees in the Amazon contain nearly 11 years of global carbon emissions.

Questions You Should Ask:



  • Where does your gold come from? Can you verify the source?
    • Is it from a certified responsible source like Fairmined or Fairtrade Gold? If yes, can you verify this?
      • If not – what can you tell me about your gold?
      • Is it recycled gold? If yes, can you verify this?
        • If not – what can you tell me about your gold?
  • Do you take any steps to verify that your gold does not come from protected land or an illicit source? If yes, what are they? If not – why?
Look out for “Red Flag” responses. See below:

Every year the burning of trees worldwide releases approximately 20% of all global carbon emissions. We are destroying the very thing that is protecting us.

“Red Flag” Responses

Because attempts to regulate the artisanal  and small scale gold mining sector are in process, and gold is difficult to trace, it is possible that your jeweler or salesperson may not have the answers you are looking for. 
There may be scenarios where a jeweler or salesperson may not be able to provide you verifiable information about where their gold is sourced, and may try to finish the conversation and sale by giving responses to reassure a customer without properly answering your questions. 


These responses sound like:

“We only use the highest standards with our materials”

“We only use the best quality gold in our pieces”

“We have strong requirements for our suppliers”


In these scenarios, keep asking questions!

  • Do you use the highest standards?
  • Great –  can you share what they are?
  • How do you make sure these standards are consistently met?


Through talking with your jeweler, favorite tech company, or bank, and making the most informed choice possible, you are part of advancing these industries to be more responsible.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme artisanal and small-scale gold mining is now the number one release of mercury in the world.

Be Aware and Share


Gold is found in many items from your cell phone to the jewelry you wear.

There are many things to think about when you purchase gold products. Gold is embedded into the fabric of our world economy and in products that we use on a daily basis. You want to make sure that you make the right choice and purchase gold that does not come at the expense of harming humans and the environment.


Uses for gold

  • Jewelry
  • Financial Markets‎
  • Electronics‎
  • Computers‎
  • Glass
  • Dental‎
  • Aerospace
  • Medical‎ Instruments
  • Awards‎
  • Gilding
  • Car parts

Every year, illicit and unregulated gold mining activity is responsible for dumping approximately 30 tons of mercury into the Peruvian ecosystem.

What’s the Problem?

Did you know that illicit and unregulated artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) is responsible for releasing more mercury – which is toxic – into the environment than the burning of all fossil fuels globally?

In most cases, small scale gold miners operate in poor conditions, with no controls or regulations, and use mercury in the mining process. Mercury is one of the most toxic elements on earth and can stay in an ecosystem for years, if not centuries. Mercury poisoning can cause serious health issues for people including brain damage, nerve and organ damage, memory loss and even possibly a shortened life span.

Unregulated artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) not only destroys the environment, but mining companies oftentimes exploit some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. It can be a perfect front for the mafia and organized crime. 

ASGM can frequently be illicit and attract illicit activities that include widespread corruption, violence, child slavery, money laundering, human trafficking, illicit seizing of lands, environmental destruction, and mercury poisoning. And now, experts and activists have evidence that some of the gold mined is used to fund terrorist operations.

The Amazon contains 20% of the world’s fresh water. 

Do You Know Where Your Gold Comes From?


The difficulty with identifying cleanly and responsibly sourced gold is that when the gold leaves the mine it can be refined at large plants that do not distinguish between sources. 

There is not a consistent clean supply chain for gold. 

Often, gold from illicit operations can be melted together with responsibly mined gold where it is then refined and sold to the consumer. Also, because gold is an element with the same overall appearance, it is easy for illicitly mined gold to be washed and certified as responsibly sourced before it arrives at the refineries. This operational process makes it very difficult for gold retailers and consumers to determine where the gold was mined or what practices were used in the process.

Today, a few gold consumers and refineries are implementing policies to improve their gold sourcing operations. Awareness is beginning to spread and groups are organizing to demand a clean and transparent supply chain. Jewelers and gold purchasers are also 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.

ASGM can be found in over 80 COUNTRIES and can involve as many as 20 million people worldwide.‎ Research suggests that 20-30% of gold production comes from ASGM.

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, working conditions, and an avenue for certifying and ensuring that the gold is mined legally, free of mercury, and promotes environmental standards. It is possible to mine for gold in a way that isn’t as harmful to our planet and people.

BUT illicit and unregulated gold mining continues…wreaking havoc on the planet.
Be part of the change.

Of the indigenous groups that were known to exist in 1900, one-third of these groups are now extinct.

What are some companies and 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.


The Responsible Jewellery Council The RJC helps companies of all sizes, throughout the jewellery supply chain, meet the rising ethical demands of peers, consumers, financial institutions and civil society. It does so by providing a clear set of standards – the RJC ‘Code of Practices’ – which is verified through a third party, independent, certification process.


Alliance for Responsible Mining is a global initiative that was born in 2004 with the aim of transforming artisanal and small-scale mining (MAPE) into a socially and environmentally responsible activity that improves the quality of life of artisanal miners and their surroundings.


 Pure Earth
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.



 PACT supply chain for gold (and other minerals/gems) called Mines to Market 


 Solidaridad To date, Solidaridad’s Gold Programme has supported over 7,500 small-scale miners and 40,000 community members in eight countries, making it one of the largest programmes of its kind. Solidaridad was one of the earliest proponents of responsible, formal small-scale mining as a path to development for rural communities.



OECD Due Diligence Guidelines



Ethical Metalsmiths – The Community for Responsible Jewelry





 IMPACT transforms how natural resources are managed in areas where security and human rights are at risk. We investigate and develop approaches for natural resources to improve security, development, and equality. We are an independent non-profit, collaborating with local partners for lasting change.

IMPACT’s Just Gold project is the first to successfully trace conflict-free and legal artisanal gold from mine sites to export in Democratic Republic of Congo, applying regional and international standards applicable to conflict-affected and high-risk areas.




Consultancies that can help jewelers and suppliers in the jewelery industry:


Christina T. Miller sustainable jewelry consulting supports companies of all shapes and sizes and at all points along the supply chain. We provide the support and guidance needed no matter where your company is on your responsible sourcing and sustainability journeys. We aim to streamline tools that enable small to mid-sized companies to evaluate, plan, measure and document their progress affordably and confidently.



Estelle Levin Ltd, gold supply chain including a project called Gold and Illicit Financial Flows Project (The GIFF Project).

Experts agree that by leaving the rainforests intact and harvesting its many nuts, fruits, oil-producing plants, and medicinal plants, the rainforest has more economic value than if they were cut down to make grazing land for cattle or for timber or mining.

Places to shop for gold:

Disclaimer: For those looking for responsibly sourced gold jewelry, it is difficult to make specific recommendations due to the complexity of the gold supply chain. The organizations listed below employ different methods for evaluating their members. Their inclusion here does not guarantee that the origin of the gold is known.

View Certified Members of the Responsible Jewellery Council

View Ethical Metalsmiths’ List of Responsible Retailers

View Fairtrade Licensed Jewellers

View Fairmined Licensed Jewelers in Your Region

View IMPACT’s Just Gold Project

If managed properly, the rainforest can provide the world’s need for these natural resources on a perpetual basis.

Host a Screening of “River of Gold” In Your Community

“River of Gold,” a documentary film by the Amazon Aid Foundation, chronicles a clandestine journey into Peru’s Amazon rainforest to uncover the savage unraveling of pristine jungle by illicit small scale gold mining.

One hectare (2.47 acres) may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of higher plants.

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Follow us on social media and repost our information. Amazon Aid’s goal is to empower and educate global audiences about the importance of the Amazon, the implications of its destruction and solutions for protecting it. Help us get the word out. #amazonaid 

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