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					  Glitter and Greed:
 Adverse economic, health,
 environmental, and human
rights consequences of gold
           jewelry

       Martin Donohoe
             Uses of Gold
• Dominant role throughout history in the
  growth of empires and the evolution of the
  world’s financial institutions 80-90% of
  gold mined today turned into jewelry
• 10-20% used by industry
   – Malleable, ductile, good thermal
     conductivity, durable, and resistance to
     corrosion
          History of Gold
• 4000 BC: first decorative objects
• By 1500 BC: standard medium of
  exchange for international trade
• Mid-1800s: CA/S African Gold
  Rushes
• As with diamonds, aggressive
  marketing has helped to popularize
  the modern gold wedding band
            Gold Production
• Top producers: South Africa, United
  States, Australia, Indonesia, and China
• 2500 tons mined each year
• Valued at $21 billion

• Typical piece of gold jewelry sells for at
  least 4 times the value of the gold itself
        Where is the Gold?
• Currently 3 times more gold sits in
  bank vaults, in jewelry boxes, and
  with private investors than is identified
  in underground reserves
   –Enough gold to meet current
    consumer demand for 17 years
              Mining:
   The World’s Deadliest Industry
• Tens of thousands killed over last century
  (40/day presently)
• Union-busting/human rights abuses help
  maintain cheap labor force
• Local communities suffer environmental
  damage, pollution, dislocations
• STDs rampant, spread by miners to wives
  and children
       The Resource Curse
• ½ of gold produced worldwide comes from
  indigenous peoples’ lands
• Dependence upon gold mining
  slows/reverses economic growth,
  increases poverty, and encourages
  governmental corruption
• Benefits go to corrupt central governments
  and overseas corporations
        The Resource Curse
• Little returned to local communities
   – Casino economy
• Rural and indigenous peoples evicted
  without prior consultation, meaningful
  compensation, or the offer of equivalent
  lands elsewhere
• ¾ of active gold mining and exploration
  sites overlap with regions of high
  conservation value, such as National
  Parks and World Heritage Sites
           U.S. Gold Mining
• Mining Law of 1872 (mine purchase price
  between $2.50 and $5.00 per acre)
• Generous government subsidies (cheap
  fuel, road building and other infrastructure,
  reclamation and cleanup)
• Local communities stuck with multi-million
  to multi-billion dollar environmental
  cleanup costs when mines declare
  bankruptcy or move on
• Native Americans’ rights violated
            Gold Mining
     Gold = Cyanide + Mercury
• At least 18 tons of mine waste
  created to obtain the gold for a single
  3 oz., 18k ring
• Gold leached from ore using cyanide
• Mercury used to capture gold
  particles as an amalgam
  –Mercury converted to neurotoxic
    methylmercury in environment
         Gold Mining
  Gold = Cyanide + Mercury
–4000 tons used to purify gold during
 19th-Century Northern California
 Gold Rush
  • Fish in Sacramento River and
    San Francisco Bay still show
    elevated levels
            Gold Mining:
       Environmental Damage
• Contaminated groundwater often sits
  in large toxic lakes held in place by
  tenuous dams
• Release of cyanide and mercury into
  local waterways kills fish, harms fish-
  eating animals, and poisons drinking
  water
            Gold Mining:
       Environmental Damage
• Omai gold mine in Guyana (one of the
  largest open-pit mines in the world):
   – Tailings dam failed in 1995
   – 3 billion cubic liters of cyanide-laden
     tailings renders downstream 32 miles of
     Omai River, home to 23,000 people, an
     “environmental disaster zone”
            Gold Mining:
       Environmental Damage
• Baia Mare gold mine in Romania
  – Tailings dam broke in 2000
  – 100,000 metric tons of toxic wastwater spilled
  – Fish killed, other animals harmed, drinking
    water of 2.5 million people in Danube River
    watershed
• Coastal dumping of gold mine waste
  elsewhere damages estuaries and coral
  reefs
    Gold, Mercury and Malaria
• Mercury pollution contributes to the spread
  of malaria:
  – Mercury may lower immunity to malaria
  – Still pools of water serve as mosquito
    breeding grounds
  – Migrant miners import new strains, infecting
    indigenous peoples
     • E.g., Thousands of Yanomami Indians killed in
       Brazil in late 1960s / early 1970s
Gold: Other Environmental Harms

• Gold smelting uses large amounts of
  energy and releases SO2, nitrogen
  dioxide, and other components of
  acid rain
  – Contributes to asthma, skin ailments
• Release of lead causes lead
  poisoning
 Gold: Other Environmental Harms
• 40% of Western U.S. watersheds affected
  by gold mining pollution
• More than 25 mines (some still active) on
  Superfund list
• Mine pollution ruins farmlands and strains
  local food resources
• Water tables decline due to pumping of
  enormous quantity of water to release gold
  from ore
  Gold Mining Harms Women and
             Children
• By displacing agriculture (where women play a
  major role), removes women from labor force
• Concentrates economic power in hands of men
• Employs a few women in low-level, clerical
  positions, where they face severe
  discrimination, sexual harassment, and firing
  for pregnancy
• Utilizes child labor
     Gold Mining: Human Rights
              Abuses
• Grassberg mine (world’s largest, owned by U.S.-
  based Freeport-McMoRan)
  – On land seized from Amunge and Komoro peoples
  – Dumps tons of cyanide-laced waste into local rivers
    each day
  – Operators implicated in forced evictions, murders,
    rape, torture, extra-judicial killings, and arbitrary
    detentions
  – Abetted by Indonesian military, which it has paid
    millions of dollars
     Gold Mining: Terrorism
• Echo Bay Mines Limited
  purportedly paid off Abu Sayef
  (affiliated with Al Qaeda) in
  exchange for protection of its
  Philippines-based gold mine
     Gold: Markets vs. Morals
• Mining industry maintains strong ties with
  governments to maintain status quo
   – $21 million political contributions in U.S.
     between 1997 and 2001

• Subsidies make it cheaper to extract new
  gold than to recycle existing gold
     Gold: Markets vs. Morals
• U.S. government has 8,134 tons of gold
  secured in vaults (worth approximately
  $122 billion)
• Federal Reserve and other major central
  banks have agreed to severely restrict
  sales from their reserves, offering, in
  effect, a price support to gold
    Gold: Markets vs. Morals
• Gold mining supported by World Bank and
  its profit-making arm, the International
  Finance Corporation
• Gold industry blocking International
  Monetary Fund- and World Bank-
  sponsored debt-forgiveness package
 Symbols of Love: Alternatives and
            Solutions
• Gold:
  – No Dirty Gold Campaign:
     • Halt to production and sale of gold produced at
       expense of communities, workers, and the environment
     • Mining companies not to operate in areas of armed
       conflict
     • Companies representing 23% of US jewelry market
       (accounting for $14.5 billion in sales) pledged
     • Take the pledge at http://www.nodirtygold.org
     • System similar to Kimberly Process
     No Dirty Gold Campaign
• Companies pledged include:
  – Zale Corporation
  – Signet Group (parent firm of Sterling and Kay
    jewelers)
  – Tiffany and Company
  – Helzberg Diamonds
  – JC Penney
     No Dirty Gold Campaign
• Companies pledged include:
  – Cartier
  – Piaget
  – Van Cleef and Arpels
  – Fred Meyer
  – Wal-Mart
  – Jostens
  – QVC
      No Dirty Gold Campaign
• Companies not pledged include:
  – Target
  – Rolex
  – Sears/Kmart

• Pledging is just the first step
     Alternatives and Solutions
• International Labor Organization’s
  Convention #169 Concerning Indigenous
  and Tribal Peoples in Independent
  Countries
  – Requires culturally-relevant consultation
    before appropriation of indigenous peoples’
    lands and that indigenous peoples participate
    in benefits of mining
  – Signed and ratified by 19 countries (but none
    of major gold mining countries)
     Alternatives and Solutions
• Consumer pressure, boycotts, shareholder
  resolutions
• Consider recycled/vintage gold, eco-
  friendly gold, alternatives to traditional
  wedding ring/class ring
• Develop biological and chemical
  treatments to decrease/destroy cyanide,
  mercury and other mining contaminants
      Alternatives and Solutions
• Consider alternative tokens of affection
  – Homemade gifts (cards, photo collages,
    videos, poems, meals, home improvement
    projects)
  – Donations to charities
  – Eco-jewelry made from recycled materials by
    indigenous peoples
     • Profits returned to local communities, providing
       wide-ranging social and economic benefit
                Conclusions
• Gold production involves significant damage to
  local communities and the environment and
  harms men, women and children
• Production supports human rights abuses,
  armed conflict, and even terrorism
• Symbols of love should not be constant
  reminders of death and destruction
  – Consider alternative symbols of love
  – Work for social justice and change
         Paper/References

Donohoe MT. Flowers, diamonds, and gold:
     The destructive human rights and
  environmental consequences of symbols
      of love. Human Rights Quarterly
               2008;30:164-82.
  http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org
              http://www.phsj.org
         martindonohoe@phsj.org

				
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posted:6/11/2010
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