Dirty Gold – the Ins and Outs

The ins and outs of dirty gold practices

This month’s article is by Kirsty Brown from Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design

Gold mining can be very destructive. Large quantities of rock are removed to find small pieces of gold, and one way that has been used to remove this rock is by flooding it with cyanide, or using mercury. This leaches out the gold, yet can cause many issues in terms of its handling and safe disposal.

Some mining happens on a very small scale, with individuals digging their own holes in the ground to extract what they can. These people often have not had proper training on how to handle the chemicals, and will even use the mercury with their bare hands!

If the training and knowledge isn’t in place on how to safely use and dispose of these chemicals, local populations and the local environment can suffer.

Another issue that can arise, especially with large scale mining, is what can be in the way of accessing the gold. Communities have been displaced by large scale mining operations if they reside on the land where gold has been located.

Historically, mining companies have not always been very good at thinking enough about their impact on the neighbouring people and land.

An important factor that needs to be considered carefully by both small and large mining companies alike is what will happen to the land once the gold has been exhausted.

There needs to be a plan in place, otherwise the land that has been mined could just be left as a gaping hole – some reportedly large enough to be seen from space! These need to be filled and replanted. These old mining sites are often turned into things such as farm land, or ‘given back’ to the rainforest – preparations for such need to be in place from the start of the mining process.

How do we avoid dirty gold?

One way is to purchase vintage / antique jewellery, or new jewellery made from recycled gold. Although this gold may of course have originally been mined with little or no concern for the environment or surrounding communities, at least this reduces the amount of new gold needed to be mined.

However, currently the only way you can completely avoid dirty gold is to buy Fairtrade and Fairmined gold. This way you know the miners are getting a fair wage and that there are definitive labour standards, with safe waste disposing standards.

Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design only deal with companies who have the same core values as them and are careful to protect the environment and ensure safe working conditions for the workforce; and much of the gold used in their jewellery is recycled. They are also one of the first of twenty jewellers worldwide to be chosen to use certified Fairtrade and Fairmined gold in their jewellery.

Check back next month for our article discussing conflict diamonds.

Images  courtesy of www.hkjewellery.co.uk.

© Living Ethically / Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design December 2011

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