FAQs and Fact Sheet about Mining and U.S. Jewelry Market
Download Fact Sheet 2008 (PDF)
1) Q. What is the No Dirty Gold campaign?
A. The No Dirty Gold campaign is working to educate consumers, retailers, and the general public about the impacts of irresponsible gold mining, and to enlist their support to reform harmful mining practices. The campaign is not calling for a boycott of gold. It is calling on the mining industry to provide alternatives to irresponsibly mined gold, which today is too often produced at the expense of communities, workers, and the environment.
2) Q. How can I as an individual help promote more responsible gold mining?
A. Join thousands of consumers in signing onto the online pledge calling for alternatives to dirty gold at http://www.nodirtygold.org/take_action.cfm. Call on Target to endorse the Golden Rules by going to our website at http://target.nodirtygold.org. When you go jewelry shopping, use your consumer power! Make sure your jeweler is committed to the Golden Rules, or print out the Golden Rules and ask your jeweler to sign it before you buy from them!
3) Q. Where can I buy gold that meets the criteria of the Golden Rules?
A. The retailers on the list have taken an important step and committed to supporting the Golden Rules. They do not guarantee, however, that their gold sourcing currently abides by those rules. One reason the No Dirty Gold campaign exists is because there is no alternative for new cleaner gold available to consumers -- and we believe that market pressure can help create that option. Right now, stores don't offer cleaner gold this option and companies don't sell it. As a growing list of jewelry retailers signs on to the Golden Rules, the mining industry is beginning to get a strong signal that irresponsible practices are not acceptable. These retailers and thousands of consumers are in effect signaling to the marketplace that there is consumer demand for cleaner gold.
In the meantime, you can buy vintage or antique jewelry or jewelry made out of recycled gold. Several sources of such materials are available, including from some retailers who have signed the Golden Rules. And next time you are in a jewelry store, ask them to commit to the Golden Rules if they haven't already!
4) Q. So how are we going to get certified cleaner gold?
A. The commitments made by the 25 retailers represent an important first step. The next step is to create a system, as in the case of diamonds and wood products, that assures consumers and retailers that the gold they are buying has been produced in ways that minimize harm to people or the environment. A multi-stakeholder group of retailers, mining companies, and NGOs called the Initiative for Responsible Mining (IRMA) is working to develop a system to independently verify compliance with best practice standards for mining. For more information, visit www.responsiblemining.net. Also see www.frameworkforresponsiblemining.org for a possible set of standards for more responsible mining recently commissioned by a multi-stakeholder group of jewelers, NGOs, and financial institutions.
Any legitimate process for creating a cleaner gold certification must include participation by mining-affected communities and civil society and cannot be controlled by the jewelry and/or mining industries.
5) Q. What does endorsing the Golden Rules mean?
A. The companies listed on our website have made in-principle commitments to the Golden Rules which are criteria for more responsible mining. These companies have agreed to actively work within their companies and with their suppliers and vendors to track the sources of their gold. They have also committed to sourcing from operations that respect social, human rights, and environmental standards in gold production, when such independently verified sources become available.
By doing so, these retailers are signaling to the mining industry that there is a demand for more responsibly produced gold from the sector that is the largest user of gold -- just as tens of thousands of individual consumers have already done over the last three years.
6) Q. Will the big jewelry retailers to sign on to the Golden Rules?
A. A growing number of jewelry retailers are pledging to move away from purchasing dirty gold and are committed to sourcing gold that is produced in more socially and environmentally responsible ways. The number of retailers making this commitment currently stands at 25, with 17 new additions since the "Leaders" list was published in the New York Times last year. These firms have indicated their commitment by endorsing the campaign's Golden Rules, which are human rights and environmental criteria for mining.
The current list includes 7 out of 10 of the largest U.S. jewelry firms, and comprises 22 percent of the countryÕs total jewelry sales ($12 billion). The retailers represent a diverse cross-section of the market, ranging from high-end jewelers like Tiffany & Co. and Cartier to class rings maker Commemorative Brands (marketer of Balfour and ArtCarved rings) to retail giant Wal-Mart and TV shopping firm QVC.
7) Q. Who are the retailer laggards refusing to sign on to the Golden Rules?
A. Target is lagging behind other jewelry industry leaders who have signed on to the Golden Rules and made public their commitment to responsible gold sourcing. For 19 months, the campaign has engaged in discussions with Target, sharing our concerns about the serious human rights and environmental problems associated with gold mining and asking for a commitment to the Golden Rules. Despite our efforts, the company has indicated that it is not yet prepared to sign on. NDG and its supporters continue to call on Target as well as other retailers to sign on to the Golden Rules.
Last year, the No Dirty Gold campaign named 8 firms as "lagging behind" on commitments to responsible gold sourcing. Over the past year, several of these companies have joined the leadership group by signing the Golden Rules. Other firms that have not signed on include Rolex and Sears/Kmart.
8) Q. Some jewelers have mentioned CRJP. What is that process about?
A. CRJP, or the Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices, was in essence created as a mechanism for jewelers to respond to the No Dirty Gold and the conflict diamonds campaign. We think it is significant that the jewelry industry recognizes that the status quo is problematic and of concern to its customers. It is still too early to say what CRJP will or will not accomplish.
Clearly what is needed is an independent third-party certification of responsible sourced gold and other minerals. A first- or second-party system created and implemented by the mining and jewelry sectors alone is not going to be credible to consumers.
Quick facts about the U.S. jewelry market:
- More than 80 percent of gold in the U.S. is used to make jewelry.
- U.S. gold jewelry sales were an estimated $19 billion in 2006, accounting for 31 percent of the $62 billion U.S. jewelry market.
- Nearly half of all people surveyed by the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council call jewelry their favorite Valentine's Day gift.
- Jewelry is among the most popular Valentine's Day gifts, following cards and candy. 28 percent of shoppers gave a gift of jewelry last Valentine's Day.
- Eight of the top ten U.S. jewelry retail companies (by sales) have endorsed the No Dirty Gold campaign's Golden Rules. These companies are: Wal-Mart, Sterling, Zale Corp., QVC, Tiffany & Co., Helzberg Diamonds, and Fred Meyer Jewelers and J.C. Penney.
- The companies who have endorsed the Golden Rules represent about $14.5 billion in jewelry sales, or 23 percent of the U.S. jewelry market.
Quick facts about gold mining:
- A single gold ring leaves in its wake at least 20 tons of mine waste.
- Open-pit gold mines essentially obliterate the landscape, opening up vast craters, flattening or even inverting mountaintops, and producing 8 to 10 times more waste than underground mining.
- Cyanide is used by large mining operations to separate gold from ore. Cyanide pollution is a major concern. A rice-grain sized dose of cyanide can be fatal to humans; concentrations of 1 microgram (one-millionth of a gram) per liter of water can be fatal to fish.
- Metals mining employs just 0.09 percent of the global workforce but consumes as much as 10 percent of world energy.
- Between 1995 and 2015, approximately half the gold produced worldwide has or will come from indigenous peoples' lands.
- Metals mining is the number one toxic polluter in the United States, responsible for 89% of arsenic releases, 85% of mercury releases, and 84% of lead releases in 2004.
- The world's largest open pit, the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, is visible to astronauts from outer space. It measures 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) deep and 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) across.
- 120,000 tons of toxic waste spilled from the Baia Mare gold mine in Romania in 2000, contaminating the drinking water of 2.5 million people and killing 1,200 tons of fish.