By Adam Bowe
Recently Channel 4’s Dispatches exposed the ugly truth about the International Gold Trade; despite the fast growing movement for more responsible mining, the use of child labour, extremely dangerous working conditions and masses of the environment being destroyed remains widespread. Dispatches also revealed during its program that some UK jewelers are telling their customers that their Gold or other precious metals are mined responsibly, but when confronted on this their details on their supply chains were either very unclear or just plain wrong.
Consumers who care about where their gold has come from should know that over 70 jewelers worldwide, including Fifi Bijoux, April Doubleday and Ingle & Rhode in the UK, have signed the ‘Golden Rules’; these are a set of social, human rights and environmental criteria for more responsible mining of gold and other precious metals. (For a full list of Jewelers taking part in this agreement please see HERE.
Many of the Jewelers taking part in the Golden Rules have also signed on to the ‘Bristol Bay Protection Pledge’, promising not to use gold from the proposed Pebble mine, which UK based Anglo American wants to dig at the headwaters of the world’s most valuable salmon fishery in Alaska.
As an apprentice jeweller myself I know full well the price of gold and other precious metals, plus how much people are willing to buy it for, what I didn’t know was the extent of dirty gold being allowed to be sold in the UK by our Government.
It is my opinion and I feel compelled that if a customer were to ask me where the gold I was selling to them was from that they should know exactly where from and that it be the truth. I work in a jeweler’s where the gold is not dirty and we very much so encourage recycling of gold and other precious metals, in fact so much so that I wouldn’t just let my partner scrap her gold; I made it into a ring instead, which she loves and says is just like buying a brand new piece of jewelery, it really is that easy.
I believe it is well over due that jewellers should provide assurance to their customers that they care about where their gold comes from. I believe they should be made, by the government, to encourage recycling of precious metals. Why not, we are encouraged to recycle everything else? Further more, now that I know of the Golden Rules, I will most definitely be trying to convince my boss (owner) of the shop I work in to sign up. I believe this should be done by all staff in every jewellery shop that is not signed up to these rules.
The Golden Rules calls up-on mining companies to meet the following basic standards in their operations:
- Respect basic human rights outlined in international conventions and law
- Obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of affected communities
- Respect workers’ rights and labor standards
- Ensure that operations are not located in areas of armed or militarized conflict
- Ensure that projects do not force communities off their lands
- Ensure that projects are not located in protected areas, fragile ecosystems, or other areas of high conservation or ecological value
- Refrain from dumping mine wastes into the ocean, rivers, lakes, or streams
- Ensure that projects do not contaminate water, soil, or air with sulfuric acid drainage or other toxic chemicals
- Cover all costs of closing down and cleaning up mine sites
- Fully disclose information about social and environmental effects of projects
- Allow independent verification of the above
So say you had the choice of buying a ring for lets say £500 from a jewelers who hasn’t signed the Golden Rules agreement and is unclear with the details of where their gold is from, or the same ring for £700 from a jewelers who has signed the golden rules and is clear on where their gold is from; which one would you buy? Id buy the £700 one, the reason for this is simple, I know the people who have mined this gold ring have been paid enough to feed their family, they haven’t been forced to at gun point. Yes it may be a little more expensive, but it doesn’t hurt you to save up that little bit longer, unlike the poor child who’s been treat like a slave.