Over 20 leading designers are collaborating with the nonprofit Pure Earth to raise awareness about the toxic connection between gold and mercury. The designers have created unique pieces of jewelry using mercury-free gold sourced from a responsible mine in Peru. The works will be featured in the Pure Earth Pure Gold auction, which will run online from April 1 to 12 (final bids can be placed online or in person at the Pure Earth Benefit Bash on April 12). Money raised will help fund Pure Earth’s continuing work preventing mercury poisoning globally.
Generously donated by Hoover and Strong, the gold, which comes from the Aurelsa mine in Peru, is Fairmined certified. (Fairmined is an assurance label, developed by the Alliance for Responsible Mining, that certifies gold from empowered responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations.)
Pure Earth consulted the Jewelry Committee of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and Ethical Metalsmiths to connect with designers interested in raising awareness about this global mercury problem–Artisanal and small-scale gold mining is the leading cause of mercury pollution in the world, accounting for over 30% of global emissions. About 10% to 25% of the world’s total gold supply comes from artisanal gold mining.
“In artisanal mining communities from Africa to Asia to Latin America, we see children holding mercury in their bare hands, miners burning mercury amalgams near their homes or by the sides of busy streets. We see the evidence of mercury use in a myriad of health problems, from uncontrollable shaking to extreme birth defects. And because mercury travels, we also see the effects of its use in contaminated seafood around the world,” says Richard Fuller, president of Pure Earth.
“The good news is that in our test of alternative methods, miners have achieved up to a 50% increase in gold yield using mercury-free techniques. Because different methods work in different locations, we are exploring multiple solutions,” explains Fuller.
Pure Earth has identified mercury as one of the top six toxic threats. This is a global issue with an estimated 19 million people at risk of mercury poisoning.
“Through the purchase of Fairmined gold, everyone has the possibility to support responsible artisanal miners and make a positive impact in their communities. We are proud to see companies and consumers committing to Fairmined and recognizing the immense efforts these miners make to be socially and environmentally responsible and improve their quality of life,“ says Kenneth Porter, Head of Fairmined Business Development at the Alliance for Responsible Mining.
”Most jewelers and their customers remain sadly unaware of the damaging effects associated with gold mining. Even when they become aware of the problems, there are very limited resources currently available. It can be quite complicated, though very rewarding, for jewelers who do decide to change their business model to support more conscious, care-driven standards. It’s all about education–understanding the past and valuing the future,” says Martin Taber, Ethical Metalsmiths.
“Hoover & Strong is committed to responsible sourcing of gold and has been supplying 100% recycled precious metals to designers and jewelers since 2007. As a natural progression to our commitment to responsible sourcing, we now offer Fairmined gold, allowing access to a source of mercury-free responsibly sourced artisanal gold with a 100% transparent supply chain. This enables jewelers to guarantee to their customers the gold is responsibly sourced, and part of the cost of their jewelry goes directly to the mine, improving both working and living conditions in the mining communities,” says Stewart Grice of Hoover & Strong.
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining is the leading cause of mercury pollution in the world, accounting for over 30% of global emissions. About 10% to 25% of the world’s total gold supply comes from artisanal gold mining.
Artisanal gold miners work in dangerous conditions to earn a meager living. Miners (including some 4.5 million women and 600,000 children) and their families are often the first to suffer from mercury poisoning, but everyone is threatened because mercury travels far and wide, dropping into oceans and rivers, poisoning seafood we all consume.
Today, an estimated 19 million people are at risk of mercury poisoning. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and many organs. It passes through the placenta and travels into developing fetus, causing birth defects and brain damage.
What Is Being Done:
On the ground, Pure Earth has been working to clean up and prevent toxic mercury pollution in artisanal gold mining communities in Indonesia, Peru, Mongolia, Senegal and many other countries. Pure Earth works to raise awareness among miners and their families about dangers of mercury, train miners in mercury-free mining techniques, and then work with local governments to scale up sustainable mining practices.
Solutions include the responsible use of mercury recapturing retorts and mercury-alternatives like borax. Because different methods are viable in different mining locations, Pure Earth is exploring a variety of techniques to reduce mercury that can be used in mines globally.
On a global level, efforts are already underway to address the problem. Earlier this month, delegates from over 100 countries gathered in Jordan to prepare for the entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the first global treaty to mitigate and prevent mercury pollution.
The Fairmined Standard and Certification System is one of the solutions that can drive positive change as it sets out an agenda that enables artisanal and small-scale miners to phase out the use of mercury in their operations and thus meet Minamata Convention requirements. The Standard encourages artisanal miners to manage these substances responsibly and use technologies to mitigate their impact on health and the environment.
About Pure Earth (formerly Blacksmith Institute) –www.pureearth.org
Pure Earth’s mission is to identify and clean up the poorest communities throughout the developing world where high concentrations of toxins have devastating health effects. Pure Earth devises clean-up strategies, empowers local champions and secures support from national and international partnerships. Interventions to mitigate these toxic exposures while protecting livelihoods have proven to be manageable, cost-effective, and eminently do-able. By partnering with and empowering local champions we clean up chemical and waste legacy toxic hotspots, prevent re-contamination and guard against future pollution.