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

You could be wearing this illegal gold now.

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 an illegal or illicit source? If yes, what are they? If not – why?
    Look out for “Red Flag” responses. See below:

    “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 tend to 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.

    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

    What’s the Problem?

    Did you know that illegal 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 illegal and attract illicit activities that include widespread corruption, violence, child slavery, money laundering, human trafficking, illegal 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.

    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 illegal 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 illegally 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 illegal gold mining continues…wreaking havoc on the planet.
    Be part of the change.

    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.

    Alliance for Responsible Miningwho have promoted the Fair Mined standard.

    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.

    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

    OECD Due Diligence Guidelines

    Places to shop for gold:


    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
    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
    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.

    Sign up for a FREE online screening of “River of Gold”

    Septembr 19-20, 2019

    “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 illegal small scale gold mining.

    Host a screening

    Host a screening of “River of Gold” in your community.

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