What Has Been Done So Far?
The industry has taken steps to address the risks created by our gold supply chains in several ways, though establishing fully traceable, accessible, and responsible sources of gold remains a challenge and the initiatives thus far have their limitations and can be improved.
Both the United States and the European Union are taking steps to implement more stringent regulations on jewelry supply chains to create assurances that the financial flows created by jewelry businesses do not contribute to illicit financial flows that organized crime groups survive on.
U.S. Patriot Act – Anti-Money Laundering (AML) (2001) After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – defunding terrorists became a top goal for the U.S. government. As a result, verifying that companies and inviduals are not laundering money to fund terrorism hit all industries, not just jewelry. Having an AML program in place is required for most businesses. See the resources below for where to learn more.
U.S. Section 1502 – Dodd Frank Act (2010) What is most significant about this law is that it officially assigned gold “conflict mineral” status and required publicly traded companies to identify and report on where their gold, now a conflict mineral, was coming from. Since large publicly traded companies rely on many non-public sources, this U.S. law has swept through the international jewelry industry impacting companies’ sourcing practices at all levels.
China adopts voluntary guidelines (2015) – These guidelines were developed by the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers and Exporters in collaboration with the OECD.
These Guidelines apply to all Chinese companies which are extracting, trading, processing, transporting, and/or otherwise using mineral resources and their related products and are engaged at any point in the supply chain of mineral resources and their related products.
EU Conflict Minerals Regulations (2021) – This new law, adopted in 2017, takes effect January 1, 2021 and will have a ripple effect through the entire gold supply chain. Visit the website to learn more.
Regulations are not the only tool available to drive change in the gold supply chain. Highlighted below are just a few examples of commitments companies have made to the responsible gold sourcing of gold.
Rainforests are being destroyed because the value of rainforest land is perceived as only the value of its timber by short-sighted governments, multi-national logging companies, and land owners.
Spotlight on Mercury
According to the UNEP, the largest single sector releasing mercury into the environment, artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
Minamata Convention on Mercury
On the 16 August 2017, the Minamata Convention came into force.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
Global Environmental Facility (GEF)
The GEF is the financial instrument providing monetary support to countries participating in the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The GEF helps countries to:
- Assess use and production of mercury, and products with mercury, within the country
- Determine sources of mercury emissions and releases, and assess contaminated sites
- Determine the extent of mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and implement mercury-free technologies and techniques
- Identify what’s needed for a national mercury program
- Identify what’s needed to implement the convention at the national level.
The GEF also invests in actions to reduce the use of mercury in products and processes; reduce emissions and releases of mercury from industrial processes; move toward the sound management of mercury; and address the use of mercury in ASGM.
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.
Standards and Certifications
The standards highlighted below are based on and meant to align with a leading international guidance by the OECD. The OECD Due Diligence for Responsible Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas is detailed in the following section.
Three standards are available for mining organizations mining gold:
Fairmined, Fairtrade, and most recently, CRAFT Code. The CRAFT Code was created to facilitate increased sourcing from artisanal and small-scale mining operations while guiding purchasers on key requirements to combat some of the biggest problems in ASGM.
Since 2014, Fairmined certified mining organizations have received almost US $4,000,000.00 in Fairmined premiums.
Founded by members of the jewelry industry in 2005, the Responsible Jewellery Council offers companies of all sizes certification against its Code of Practices standard (required for membership) as well as a voluntary Chain of Custody certification. The RJC currently has over 1,200 members.
Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) is a multi-stakeholder organization that offers mine site level, 3rd party certification for mines that meet the Standard for Responsible Mining. The standard can be used to evaluate practices at industrial mines of all materials except energy fuels and it includes a chapter on ASM.
LBMA Responsible Gold Guidance, was developed for LBMA member refiners on the “Good Delivery” list. The London Market Bullion Association (LBMA) is a “standard-setting body for the global wholesale market for precious metals.” Of special note the Guidance states that: Refiners should, with reference to Appendix 1 of the OECD Supplement on Gold, consider measures to create economic and development opportunities for artisanal and small-scale miners and assist legitimate ASM producers to build secure, transparent and verifiable gold supply chains from mine to market.
If managed properly, the rainforest can provide the world’s need for these natural resources on a perpetual basis.
Spotlight on Jewelry Industry Commitments
Tiffany & Co has long worked to establish responsible and sustainable practices and communicates its commitments with an annual Sustainability Performance report. Most recently, it partnered with RESOLVE and Apple on an initiative to source gold responsibly while restoring fish habitats in Alaska.
Cartier also publishes annual reports in an effort to be transparent about sourcing and has taken some important steps, such as creating a supplier Code of Conduct. Being able to track even some of a company’s gold is a big step for the industry. Cartier can trace a portion of its gold to a mine in Honduras – which is fully traceable and refined at a facility entirely dedicated to processing this gold.
Luxury jewelry company, Chopard, makes a commitment to only source “Ethical Gold” (2018).
While these companies have taken meaningful steps in the right direction and have the potential to influence other parts of the industry to do the same, they are also subject to continual improvement.
Jeweler, Toby Pomeroy, has initiated a campaign, the Mercury Free Mining Challenge, to award a prize of one million dollars to the individual(s) who can innovate and create a better way to recover gold than by using mercury. The project aims to support innovations that discover a new means to separate gold from ore in a way that is environmentally safe, cost less than mercury, readily available and acceptable to artisanal miners, can be easily transported to remote locations, have fewer restrictions than mercury, and be equally or more effective than the ages-old mercury/gold amalgamation process.
Ethical Metalsmiths, in partnership with Christina T. Miller Consulting, and La Fortaleza has also created a mercury cleanup project, Better Without Mercury, which is raising funds and facilitating the process of removing mercury contamination from an artisanal gold mine in Colombia. Though they stopped using mercury in 2017, La Fortaleza was exposed to decades of mercury use and contamination remains a major concern.
Amazon Aid –AAF’s River of Gold Project-educates global audiences about the importance of the Amazon, the implications of its destruction through illegal and unregulated gold mining, while promoting solutions for protecting it through a range of programs and initiatives.
Earthworks, No Dirty Gold Campaign and its Pledge calling on companies to uphold the Golden Rules has been signed by over 100 jewelers.
One hectare (2.47 acres) may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of higher plants.
Spotlight on the Amazon
The Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA) focuses on developing solutions on how to reforest and restore degraded areas destroyed by unregulated artisanal and small scale gold mining. The Center was developed as a solution and direct response to Amazon Aid Foundation’s explosive documentary about illegal gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon.
Mapping Illegal Gold Mining – Amazon Region:
MAAP monitors and analyses real-time deforestation work to make their reporting accessible and useable by diverse stakeholders. The geographic focus of MAAP is the Andean Amazon, with a focus on Peru
The Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG), conducts mapping projects with the intent to empower people of the Amazon with information needed to protect their resources. The culminating interactive map tracks “evidence of illegal mining in Indigenous Territories and Protected Natural Areas of the Amazon.”
Moskowitz, P. (2014, August 13). Mount Polley mine spill: a hazard of Canada’s industry-friendly attitude? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/13/mount-polley-mine-spill-british-columbia-canada
Earthworks. “How the 20 Tons of Mine Waste per Gold Ring Figure Was Calculated .” Earthworks No Dirty Gold Campaign, Earthworks, https://earthworks.org/cms/assets/uploads/archive/files/publications/20TonsMemo_FINAL.pdf.
Human Rights Watch. (2018). “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewelry Companies.” Human Rights Watch, 8 Feb. 2018, https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/02/08/hidden-cost-jewelry/human-rights-supply-chains-and-responsibility-jewelry.