Introduction: The World Gold Council (www.gold.org) represents 22 of the world’s gold mining companies, and 60% of new production. Recently, they have been working on a standards framework for conflict free gold. They have published two draft standards on their website.
Here, Greg Valerio, co-founder of Fair Jewelry Action, responds to a letter to Aram Shishmanian, CEO of the WGC, about his concerns regarding the standard process, pointing out that once again, small scale miners who provide the bulk of employment are missing from the consultation processes.
The letter is below.
~Marc Choyt, Director, FJA USA.
Many thanks for the email regarding the WGC process for tackling conflict gold from the Great Lakes Region.
Firstly I want to say that as a jeweller and activist in the industry, I support any process that will lead to the stabilisation of conflict zones, the promotion of human rights and sustainable wealth creation in our industry.
I have reviewed the consultation document that is currently being circulated and to be fair, I only have one tangible comment to make as follows.
As we all know the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region (GLR) and its relationship to the mineral sector is complicated, with many actors large and small being guilty through neglect, ignorance or criminal activity in the perpetuation of conflict and violence. No-one is innocent. The victims of these conflicts are the local populations who live in the region and due to subsistence living and poverty, derive an income through a diversified livelihoods strategy, which includes small scale artisanal mining.
It is these Artisan Smallscale Miners (ASM) who due to their economic, social and political marginalisation, have been and continue to be exploited by the more powerful actors in the region. They are also the primary victims, along with their families who have suffered the worst atrocities. It is this vulnerability that creates the opportunity for exploitation and conflict mineral production.
The WGC has engaged a process of supply chain management that will seek to remove conflict minerals from their members chain of custody. However the WGC only represent LSM actors and minimal employees in the GLR. In my opinion if the WGC do not engage in a comprehensive and equitable process with the ASM sector in the region, the unintended consequences of a Large Scale Mining (LSM) consolidation of the supply chain under the banner of Conflict Free, will be the majority in the Gold trade will be further marginalised, unable to access expensive audit trails on their production and be forced to smuggle and at worst be exploited by criminals and warring factions.
In short we will see a failure emerge similar to the Kimberley Process, where claims are made, consumer understanding is shallow, and the very result desired by everyone; namely the end to conflict, will fail as the end of conflict will not come about, it will just be driven further underground. The reputational risk this will have on WGC members, purchasers of their product, the jewellery trade and beyond will be considerable as Conflict Minerals (gold) will still leak into the supply chain, thereby contaminating everyone and ultimately devaluing the efforts currently being made by WGC, OECD and others.
I therefore urge the WGC to look beyond it membership and seek to use its considerable resources to deliver a comprehensive process that engages the ASM sector as an equal and builds through a multi stakeholder process a solution that will last beyond the short term.
Jeweller & Activist
On 5 Aug 2011