8pm Monday, as every Monday, saw Channel 4 broadcast its programme Dispatches . Only this week, it was called The Real Price of Gold and looked at where the gold for jewellery comes from.
Presenter and businesswoman Deidre Bounds was shown visiting a number of high street jewellery retailers encountering a storm of confusing and inaccurate sales patter from staff at high street jewellery stores about where their gold comes from.
Next we saw her travel to Honduras and Senegal to witness the process of how gold is mined. Footage showed a 14 year old boy in Senegal, working in an illegal mine, and handling toxic mercury with his bare hands. Then we saw children suffering health effects, which villagers near the Goldcorps mine in the Siria Valley in Honduras, link to mining. Here, a 14 year old boy was shown with headaches, sores on his skin, and hair loss. Tests found that he had more than double the safe limit of lead in his blood.
So what about the solutions? The programme highlighted Fairtade and Fairmined Gold where workers have safer working conditions and are guaranteed a fair wage. But at present just some 20 designer makers have access to this gold.
The Responsible Jewellery Council didn t come off brilliantly, as Deidre pushed their representative to concede that it will be voluntary for a retailer to engage in the Chain of Custody process in other words, to implement the transparency and traceability necessary to be able to track a piece of gold from mine, through refinery, to final product.The comments pages on the programme’s website, and on the twitter stream #DirtyGold demonstrate a consumer appetite to buy gold with good conscience, safe in the knowledge that it’s been produced without harming the environment, or putting people at risk. It’s time jewellery retailers listen to their customers demands for cleaner gold and mining companies stepped up to the plate in meeting that demand by changing their practices.
Tens of thousands of people have added their voice to the No Dirty Gold pledge opposing irresponsibly mined gold. We here at Earthworks are committed to working long term for an end to dirty gold. We're pleased to be working with jewellery retailers from around the world, including in Britain, who support the Golden Rules to clean up the industry, and those who ve signed the pledge to protect the threatened Bristol Bay.
If you re based in the UK or Ireland you can watch the programme online.