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For immediate release: 11 Feb 2004


EARTHWORKS/Mineral Policy Center
Oxfam America


Consumer Campaign Targets the
$16 billion U.S. Gold Jewelry Market

WASHINGTON, DC — EARTHWORKS/Mineral Policy Center and Oxfam America today announced the launch of No Dirty Gold, a consumer campaign intended to shake up the gold industry and change the way gold is mined, bought and sold. The two organizations have targeted the gold jewelry market for the major consumer campaign, because gold mining is arguably the dirtiest industry operating in the U.S. and in many parts of the world.

“Gold doesn't seem so shiny when you consider the colossal damage gold mining inflicts,” said Payal Sampat, International Campaign Director with EARTHWORKS. “We're asking consumers to consider the real cost of gold, and we're enlisting their help to put an end to mining practices that endanger people and ecosystems.”

Gold mining is being targeted as an industry ripe for reform through consumer pressure because of the extensively documented human and environmental costs of gold mining. Most gold is not used for essential services; 80 percent is used to make jewelry. Most consumers don't realize that in developing countries gold mining is associated with protests, human rights abuses, and even imprisonment, along with environmental devastation. In the U.S. mines generate an amount of waste equivalent in weight to nearly nine times the trash produced by all U.S. cities and towns combined. The production of a single 18 Karat gold ring weighing less than an ounce generates at least 20 tons of mine waste. Metals mining employs less than one-tenth of one percent of the global workforce but consumes 7 to 10 percent of the world's energy.

“Our people have suffered beatings, imprisonment, and murder for standing up for our community rights against multinational mining companies,” said Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, a mining activist from the Tarkwa district of Ghana where 30,000 people were displaced by gold mining operations between 1990 and 1998. “We want buyers of gold to support our rights and demand that mining companies adhere to higher ethical standards.”

“What we're asking for is reasonable, fair and possible,” said Keith Slack, Senior Policy Advisor with Oxfam America. “The symbol of your enduring love should not have to come at the expense of clean drinking water or respect for human rights. It's also just good business.”

The campaign kicks off right before Valentine's Day, a major occasion for gold jewelry sales in the U.S. Between February 11 and 14, activists will be distributing Valentine's cards with the message, “Don't tarnish your love with dirty gold” in front of major jewelry and watch stores, including Cartier's and Piaget's on 5th Avenue in midtown New York City, and around busy Metro stations, including several in Boston and Washington, D.C. A copy of the Valentine's Day card is available at www.nodirtygold.org. Consumers will be asked to sign a pledge calling for alternatives to “dirty” or irresponsibly produced gold. The pledge is also accessible via the www.nodirtygold.org website.

Additionally, Earthworks and Oxfam are releasing a report today, called “Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities and the Environment,” which details the massive pollution, huge open pits, devastating community health effects, worker dangers and, in many cases, human rights abuses that have become hallmarks of gold and metals mining in countries such as Peru, Indonesia, Ghana and in parts of the United States. The report and a fact sheet on gold mining can be downloaded from www.nodirtygold.org. For a print copy or for photos of gold mining, please contact Harlin Savage at tel. 303-554-8946.

The No Dirty Gold campaign draws from the experience of consumer efforts to end sweatshop labor, promote fair trade coffee and others. Like those campaigns, the No Dirty Gold campaign emphasizes student outreach. Activists will be handing out Valentine's Day cards on university campuses including, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Kent State, MIT and others. Organizing around class ring sales and speaking tours of citizens from communities impacted by mining will take place in the coming months.

If you are interested in interviewing representatives of communities affected by gold mining in the U.S. and around the world, student organizers, scientists or others relevant to this issue, please contact Harlin Savage at Resource Media at tel. 303-554-8946.


Editors:  Top 10 U.S. jewelry retailers, 2001

($US millions)
Finlay Fine Jewelry
JC Penney
Service Merchandise