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New Movie Highlights “Blood Diamonds,” but “Dirty Gold” also Cited as Major Problem

WASHINGTON, DC — In advance of Friday's release of the new movie Blood Diamond, today international development organization Oxfam America and environmental group EARTHWORKS called on the jewelry and mining industries to ensure that gold, diamonds, and other minerals are independently certified to meet human rights, environmental and social standards. Since 2004, the groups' No Dirty Gold campaign (www.nodirtygold.org) has pressured companies to commit to protecting human rights and environmental standards in the gold-mining industry.

Since the launch of the campaign, more than a dozen jewelers have made the commitment to work toward certified gold.

“Consumers should consider not only the diamonds on their fingers, but also the gold in the ring that they are set in,” said Keith Slack, senior policy advisor for Oxfam America. “Too often, irresponsible mining-whether for diamonds, gold, or other precious minerals-comes at the expense of people and the environment,” he added.

Payal Sampat, International Campaign Director for EARTHWORKS, said “Jewelry and mining companies should ensure that 'clean diamonds' are set in a ring of 'ethical gold.' Today, because we lack independent certification, the customer can't be given that assurance.”

Irresponsible mining of gold, diamonds and other precious minerals has resulted in myriad human rights abuses, cyanide spills, and human health impacts. For example, in 2000, gold mining pollution containing cyanide and heavy metals polluted a 250-mile stretch of the Danube River in Eastern Europe. Struggle for control of mineral resources has fueled violent conflict in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, where this film takes place.

“The Kimberley Process for diamonds was an important first step, but an independent, third-party system that includes gold and other precious metals is needed,” added Sampat. “Right now, no such verified source exists, whether we look at Canada, Sierra Leone, South Africa or Nevada.”

“We're glad that Blood Diamond is once again shining the spotlight on the blood diamonds issue,” said Oxfam's Slack. “But now jewelry and mining companies must take action to address both the impacts of blood diamonds and dirty gold.”

Since the No Dirty Gold campaign was launched in 2004, more than 50,000 people around the world have signed a petition calling for “cleaner” gold production. In addition, twelve major jewelry retailers, including Tiffany & Co., Helzberg Diamonds, and Zale Corp., have endorsed the campaigns' “Golden Rules” for more responsible mining. A multi-sector “Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance” (IRMA) is now underway to develop an independent certification process for gold and precious metals.