USA: Number of Large Brands Support ‘No Dirty Gold’ Effort

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RAPAPORT… As shoppers rush to buy last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts, five of the nation’s leading jewelry retailers –Tiffany & Co., Ben Bridge Jeweler, Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, and Leber Jeweler, Inc.– pledged their support to permanently protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale metal mining, including the massive proposed Pebble gold mine.

The retailers, who represent $2.2 billion in sales for 2006, took this step at the invitation of local Alaskans, who seek to protect wild salmon, clean water, and traditional ways of life from the damaging effects of industrial metal mines.
“I am pleased to stand with others in the jewelry industry today in announcing our support for protecting Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale mining,” said Jon Bridge, Co-CEO of Seattle-based Ben Bridge Jeweler. “As retail jewelers, we want to be able to tell our customers that the precious metals we use are mined responsibly – that the materials used in the jewelry they purchase have been mined in environmentally friendly ways, respectful of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and the communities that depend on it.”
The controversial Pebble mine is highlighted in a new report released by the No Dirty Gold consumer campaign led by EARTHWORKS and Oxfam America. The report, “Golden Rules: Making the Case for Responsible Mining,” documents the toll of irresponsible mining on people, water, and wildlife at a time when soaring metals prices are driving new mining development globally. The report describes human rights violations and environmental concerns at metals mines in the United States and around the world.
The retailers are among a group of 28 jewelry retailers, representing 23 percent of jewelry sales in the United States, who have endorsed the No Dirty Gold campaign’s “Golden Rules” – human rights and environmental criteria for mining. 
“Some of the world’s leading jewelers have recognized that the Bristol Bay watershed is a treasure worth protecting. We applaud their principled position and commitment to not source metals from areas of high conservation value,” said Payal Sampat of EARTHWORKS.
The proposed Pebble mine is backed by the UK-based Anglo American, one of the world’s largest metal mining companies, and Northern Dynasty Minerals of Canada. The Bristol Bay watershed, where the proposed mine would be located, supports a wild salmon fishery.
“We want to express a sincere thank you to these jewelry companies,” said Bobby Andrew, a spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of the Land), an association of eight Alaska Native corporations. “The proposed Pebble mine threatens the wild salmon fishery that has sustained the region’s economy and our people for generations.” 
Consumers today are more aware of the human and environmental costs of the goods and services they purchase than ever before. While other business sectors have responded to demand for cleaner, ethically produced goods and services –such as sustainably harvested wood products and fair trade coffee– the mining sector lags behind in terms of embracing an independent system for standards and verification. Some 100,000 consumers in more than 100 countries have signed on to the No Dirty Gold pledge, urging mining companies to provide alternatives to “dirty” gold.
“Consumers and jewelry retailers across the country have clearly signaled their desire for certified, more ethically produced metals,” noted Raymond C. Offenheiser of Oxfam America. “The question is: when will mining companies step up to meet this obvious demand?”
The No Dirty Gold campaign urges mining companies to find solutions and implement best practices that can be independently verified – at both existing and new operations. According to the campaign’s new report, mining practices in places like Ghana, Indonesia, Nevada, and other parts of the world continue to pollute air and water, damage farmland and forests, and, in some parts of the world, fuel violent conflict. The report describes damaging practices at 17 metals mines around the world. According to organizers these mines include:

  • Grasberg mine in West Papua, owned by U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan, which has been linked to human rights abuses and extensive water pollution.
  • Jerritt Canyon mine in Nevada, owned by Yukon-Nevada Gold Corporation, which is a leading source of airborne mercury pollution in the U.S.
  • Bogoso/Prestea Mine in Ghana, owned by Canada-based Golden Star Resources, which has contaminated drinking water and local fisheries with cyanide spills in violation of the industry’s voluntary “Cyanide Code.”

There are promising signs within the industry that some operations are responding to community concerns and consumer demands for more responsibly mined gold. For example, a number of firms have adopted a policy against dumping mine wastes in rivers, while others have publicly committed to disclosing payments made to foreign governments. 

Retailers Who Support the Golden Rules
The following retailers have taken steps towards more responsible sourcing of gold by declaring their support for the Golden Rules. These Rules represent social, environmental, and human rights criteria for more responsible gold production. The No Dirty Gold campaign encourages these retailers to now actively pursue “cleaner” sources of gold and to demonstrate that they are meeting their sourcing commitment.
Ben Bridge Jeweler
Birks & Mayors
Brilliant Earth
Commemorative Brands
Cred Jewellery
Fred Meyer and Littman Jewelers
Hacker Jewelers
Helzberg Diamonds
Leber Jeweler
Michaels Jewelers
Signet Group
Stephen Fortner
Tiffany & Co.
Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Gundy
Victoria Casal USA
Whitehall Jewellers
Zale Corp.

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