"Dirty Gold" Campaign Targets Gold Miners

February 23, 2004

"Dirty Gold" Campaign Targets Gold Miners

Earthworks/Mineral Policy Center and Oxfam America announced Feb. 11 the launch of "No Dirty Gold," a consumer campaign intended to shake up the gold industry and change the way gold is mined, bought and sold. The two organizations are aiming at the gold jewelry market for the major consumer campaign, because they say gold mining is "the dirtiest industry operating in the U.S. and in many parts of the world," according to a press release at the campaign's Web site.

"Gold doesn't seem so shiny when you consider the colossal damage gold mining inflicts," says Payal Sampat, international campaign director with Earthworks. "We're asking consumers to consider the real cost of gold, and we're enlisting their help to put an end to mining practices that endanger people and ecosystems."

Gold mining is being targeted for reform through consumer pressure, says the campaign, because of the documented human and environmental costs of gold mining. It says 80% of gold mined is used to make jewelry and that in developing countries gold mining is associated with human rights abuses and environmental devastation. In the U.S., mines generate an amount of waste equivalent in weight to nearly nine times the trash produced by all U.S. cities and towns combined, according to the campaign. "The production of a single 18k gold ring weighing less than an ounce generates at least 20 tons of mine waste," the campaign states. "Metals mining employs less than one-tenth of 1% of the global work force but consumes 7% to 10% of the world's energy."

"Our people have suffered beatings, imprisonment, and murder for standing up for our community rights against multinational mining companies," says Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, a mining activist from the Tarkwa district of Ghana, in Africa, where 30,000 people were displaced by gold mining operations between 1990 and 1998. "We want buyers of gold to support our rights and demand that mining companies adhere to higher ethical standards."

"What we're asking for is reasonable, fair and possible," says Keith Slack, senior policy advisor with Oxfam America. "The symbol of your enduring love should not have to come at the expense of clean drinking water or respect for human rights. It's also just good business."

The campaign kicked off right before Valentine's Day, a major occasion for gold jewelry sales in the U.S. Between Feb. 11 and 14, activists distributed Valentine's cards with themessage, "Don't tarnish your love with dirty gold" in front of major jewelry and watch stores, including Cartier and Piaget on 5th Avenue in New York City, and around subway stations, including several in Boston and Washington, DC. A copy of the Valentine's Day card is available at www.nodirtygold.org. Consumers will be asked to sign a pledge calling for alternatives to "dirty" or irresponsibly produced gold. The pledge is also accessible via the Web site.

Additionally, Earthworks and Oxfam released a report called "Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities and the Environment," which details the pollution, huge open pits, community health effects, worker dangers and, in many cases, human rights abuses that the "No Dirty Gold" campaign says are present in gold and metals mining in countries such as Peru, Indonesia, Ghana and in parts of the U.S.

The No Dirty Gold campaign says it draws from the experience of consumer efforts to end sweatshop labor, promote fair trade coffee and others. Like those campaigns, the No Dirty Gold campaign emphasizes student outreach. Activists handed out Valentine's Day cards on university campuses including, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple Universtiy, Kent State, MIT and others. Organizing around class ring sales and speaking tours of citizens from communities affected by mining will take place in the coming months.

The campaign also lists the top 10 jewelers in the U.S. by sales, including Wal-Mart, Zales, Sterling Jewelers, Sears, Finlay Fine Jewelry, J.C. Penney, QVC, Tiffany & Co. and K-Mart.

Jewelers of America responded to the new campaign with this statement: "Jewelers of America, the national trade association for retail jewelers, strongly supports the responsible mining of minerals and metals. The long-term objectives articulated in the recently published report by Earthworks and Oxfam America are consistent with the Jewelers of America mission statement and with our own ongoing commitment to social, ethical and environmental responsibility. We look forward to working together with all interested stakeholders to assure that the materials used to produce jewelry products are obtained in ways that are environmentally and socially responsible."

The World Gold Council also issued a statement: "The World Gold Council and its members are conscious of their obligations and responsibilities towards the maintenance of the environment. The Council's primary members are actively involved in the Industrial Council of Mining and Metals, which supports programs for mining, minerals, and sustainable development."

"Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities and the Environment" and a fact sheet on gold mining can be downloaded from nodirtygold.org For a printed copy or for photos of gold mining, call Harlin Savage, (303) 554-8946.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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