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Our No Dirty Gold campaign has released a new report on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) of gold and precious metals, The Quest for Responsible Small-scale Gold Mining.  The report compares standards of initiatives aiming for responsibility in ASM of precious metals.

Small-scale mines can have serious community and environmental impacts. But if projects adopt mining standards that are responsible and most precautionary, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) could be a source of more responsibly mined gold. Adopting strong principles and standards for responsible ASM practices may allow miners to minimize harmful impacts and allow ASM to provide a net benefit to communities.

The following is the summary from the report:

As currently practiced, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) of metals can have destructive impacts on communities and the environment. Adopting principles and standards for responsible ASM practices may allow miners to minimize harmful impacts and allow ASM to provide a net benefit to communities. A number of initiatives have sought to determine what those responsible practices should be and how they can be implemented.

In order to provide some guidance and suggestions to existing and new initiatives, we have compared common and leading principles or standards of multiple initiatives working towards developing more responsible artisanal and small-scale metals mining practices. We selected the voluntary initiatives from the following institutions for this comparison: Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) / Fairtrade Labeling Organizations (FLO) CRED Jewellery EcoAndina Fair Trade in Gems and Jewelry Mammoth Tusk Gold (MTG) Oro Verde URTH Solution.

No single initiative that we examined represented precautionary, comprehensive, best practice standards for all of the aspects of small-scale mining that we considered. Each of the initiatives had points for which it was closer to representing best practice, and points where it was further from best practice. Although it can be difficult to compare across initiatives that include retailer-based and mine site- or certification-based efforts, the comparison of standards suggests improvements that could be made in the initiatives. All of the initiatives would benefit from strong standards on biodiversity, energy use, and involvement of principle stakeholders in development of standards.

The stronger points from all of these initiatives, in combination with the precautionary principle and known best practice, could be combined to form a composite of best practice in responsible small-scale gold mining. Such a certification system would include practices such as respecting human rights; obtaining community consent; guaranteeing revenue sharing and transparency; not operating in areas of armed conflict; respecting workers rights and health and safety standards; not using mercury or other toxic chemicals; and not operating in protected areas, among others. Traceability and third- party verification of compliance would provide further assurance of responsible sourcing. “