What Makes Responsible Gold Responsible?

“Within a forest dark….” Doré for Dante’s Inferno, Plate I: Canto I, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

What makes Responsible Gold responsible? So glad you asked!

“On average, producing enough gold to make a single wedding band generates 20 tons of waste.” How are those 20 tons of ore mined and is the waste disposed of responsibly? We care about such things.

Gold is extracted from gold mines, of course. Some of those mines use humane and ecologically responsible practices. Others do not. While all gold is elementally the same not all gold is created equal. Responsible Gold’s gold is meticulously sourced from ethical providers.

Some buyers may not care. Others do.

I hope you are among those who do.

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

Responsible Gold is akin to “Fair Trade” coffee and “Conflict Free” diamonds.

The World Fair Trade Organization lists ten factors, such as “Ensuring no Child-Labour or Forced Labour” and “Respect for the Environment,” to which vendors must adhere in order that their product be labeled as “Fair Trade.”

Conflict Free diamonds are governed by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

pursuant to UN Resolution 55/56, “to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.” (Some diamond purveyors have risen to even higher standards, akin to those of Responsible Gold.)

There have been many troubling reports about how some gold comes from mines that are inhumane or environmentally toxic. Responsible Gold’s market ranges from sovereign wealth funds, multi-billion dollar pools administered by governments, committed, by charter, to avoiding investments in ethically questionable ventures and who own literally tons of gold, to retail customers who buy gold by the gram.

Why do we care?  Responsible Gold cares about people and the planet. We conjoin the gold here with a clear conscience. You have our guarantee that the gold you acquire here — which we meticulously audit and track on the blockchain — is ethical.

Our diligence lets you avoid unethical practices on the environmental side.

A lengthy report by Codi Kozacek for Circle of Blue states:

Large-scale surface gold mines can use between 60,000 and 100,000 cubic meters (16 million and 26 million gallons) of water each day, while gold extraction methods and the waste created have a long history of inflicting environmental damage on waterways.

·        Hydraulic mining — a method of extraction first utilized during the 19th century gold rush in the Western United States — blasted millions of cubic meters of gold-containing gravel from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and filled streams with mercury-laced waste that continues to be a source of pollution in California’s waterways today.

·        Heap leaching — in which a pile of gold ore is irrigated with a cyanide solution — is responsible for several hazardous superfund sites in the United States and may have caused pollution at Zijin Mountain in China’s Fujian Province.

·        Containing the waste left behind after ore processing also poses a considerable threat to water — in 1995, 454 million liters (120 million gallons) of toxic tailings spilled into the Omai and Essequibo rivers in Guyana.

“As the richer ore bodies are mined, companies are tapping less productive seams of gold and other metals, with smaller concentrations of gold content and larger quantities of waste,” said Sampat of the No Dirty Gold campaign. “On average, producing enough gold to make a single wedding band generates 20 tons of waste.”

The mine waste can contaminate groundwater and soil, and many mining companies still dump their tailings directly into rivers, lakes and oceans, she added.

A new report, called Troubled Waters and released in February by Earthworks and MiningWatch Canada, details some of the world’s water systems that are most threatened by mine waste dumping. Of the 12 case studies documented, seven are located in Papua New Guinea and West Papua, Indonesia. Mining waste dumped into water bodies totals more than 180 million metric tons (400 billion pounds) each year, and nine of the world’s largest mining companies use this disposal technique, according to the report.

Wesley Tomaselli, at Ozy, reported recently on The Illegal Gold Mining Boom That Is Poisoning Columbia:

…most artisanal and small-scale mines mix mercury with gold-bearing material into a mercury-gold amalgam that’s heated. The mercury vaporizes, leaving behind the ore. Miners and their families inhale the mercury vapors or absorb the metal through their skin — not good. The miners work “without gloves or any kind of protection,” Oliveros says. “It’s totally unregulated and out of control.” He and his 26-year-old wife tell OZY they only recently learned about the potentially devastating health threats posed by this silver liquid metal, and now they’re scared.

They should be. If you’ve heard of Britain’s 19th-century mad hatter disease, you have some grasp of the dimensions of mercury poisoning: tremors, confusion, erectile dysfunction, birth defects, delirium, paranoia, memory loss and, at high enough levels, death.

Colombia’s government estimates that, in 2012 alone, miners used between 130 and 460 metric tons of mercury; the military figures that each year about 200 tons of mercury end up in the country’s rivers. It’s difficult to get an accurate figure, though, when the government estimates that 87 percent of gold mines in Colombia don’t have government-issued environmental licenses.

And Max Radwin, for USA Today, reports how Peru’s illegal gold mines are devastating the Amazon rain forest:

Peru, the largest gold producer in Latin America and the sixth largest in the world, has long struggled with illegal gold mining. Thousands of small, unchecked operations extracting gold from the Amazon are responsible for nearly 200 square miles of deforestation and mercury poisoning to the water so severe that several regions declared a state of emergency last year.

Our diligence lets you avoid unethical practices on the humanitarian side.

Kevin Sieff, last year, writing for The Washington Post  reported on the activities of desperate illegal gold miners who scavenge abandoned South African mines under harsh and dangerous conditions.

He describes how economically desperate miners crawl through tiny holes made by an “amateur’s dynamite blast,” without safety equipment oxygen, or oversight from professionals. Miners told the reporter that at least one person dies a week.  They refine the ore they bring up in highly toxic vats of mercury, “stirred in old metal gas canisters,” for a few dollars and, bribing local officials, sell the gold which is then commingled with legally mined gold.

The Johannesburg Times published an article, no longer available at their website but republished elsewhere, headlined Dungeons of gold: Sex, booze, and barbecue in underground mine cities. It alleges conditions reminiscent of a lower circle of Dante’s Inferno with underground, so to speak, economies comprising food, clothing, cellphones and batteries, alcohol and illicit commercial sex.

I have written here before about the lovely qualities of gold and its original identity as stardust. That said, there are many steps between gold’s being forged in neutron stars and its extraction from the Earth, refinement from ore, and delivery for you.

Responsible Gold uses the blockchain to meticulously track and ensure that the gold that you purchase and hold here is ethical, mined and refined according to acceptable humanitarian and ecological standards. We care not only about the material quality of your gold but about having a thoroughly ethical supply chain.

We care where our customers’ gold comes from.

We hope you care too.

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

That’s what makes Responsible Gold responsible.

About the Author:

Ralph Benko is editor-in-chief of The Supply Side and, with Charles Kadlec, author of The 21st Century Gold Standard: For Prosperity, Security, and Liberty, and lead co-editor of the Laissez Faire Books edition of Copernicus’s Essay on Money.

Benko also wrote The Webster’s Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world and was editor of The Lehrman Institute’s gold standard website. He was one of 23 official witnesses before the Reagan Gold Commission, testifying on the constitutional history of American monetary policy.