MSDS Transitions to New and Improved SDS

By Alyssa on April 21, 2015 at 10:48 am

self_adhesive-2_3

If you’ve ever worked in a darkroom, art studio, chemistry lab, farm, car garage, or any other place that requires the use of chemicals, you’ve likely seen a big binder labeled MSDS (acronym for Material Safety Data Sheets) laying out safety guidelines for the handling of hazardous chemicals. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the main federal agency responsible for the enforcement of safety and health laws such as MSDS. The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires all chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to provide MSDS laying out the hazards of hazardous chemical products. Two things: first, MSDS are now known as SDS (Safety Data Sheets), and second, as of June 1st, 2015, the HCS will require new SDS to be in a uniform format, and include section numbers, headings, and associated information, as laid out by HCS (find more details on that here).

This is important to Bario Neal, and the jewelry community in general, because until now there was very little information in MSDS about jewelry chemistry disposal, such as liver of sulfur, pickle, acetone, and other chemicals, and every jewelry community across the country seemed to deal with handling differently. This made it very difficult for jewelers and metalsmiths to know how to protect themselves from and dispose of these chemicals properly. Additionally, many of the toxic chemicals jewelers use were not subject to rigorous testing because they were not determined to be “hazardous.” In this way, MSDS were misleading, because many of these chemicals are in fact detrimental to our health and the environment. The new SDS will include product composition and suggested disposal processes, making them more comprehensive and enabling a standardized way of handling.

Schools, arts and craft centers, studios, workshops, etc, will have until June 1, 2016 to transition studio MSDS binders to SDS, and to review expanded hazard information with staff and employees to ensure safe use, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials. It’s also important for jewelers to note that companies they source studio chemicals from, like Rio Grande, Otto Frei, and others are required to provide new SDS this year.

For more information on the new SDS, see OSHA’s website.

Mongolian NGO Obtains Fairmined Certification

By Alyssa on April 8, 2015 at 10:12 am

Ecological-gold-from-Mongolia-group-inside

 

In February 2015, the first mining organization from outside of South America obtained Fairmined Certification. Over the past couple of years, the Mongolian mining NGO XAMODX has been working very hard to meet the requirements of the Fairmined Standard, and is now celebrating its achievements.

From the outset, the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), the non-profit organization responsible for creating the Fairmined model, has focused on facilitating the implementation of Fairmined standards and certification in mines in South America, where there are currently three Fairmined organizations. While any gold mine anywhere in the world can apply for Fairmined certification, achieving the rigorous standards that enable Fairmined certification is difficult. With the help of the Sustainable Artisanal Mining (SAM) Project of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation in Mongolia, XAMODX has become the fourth Fairmined organization in the world, and is currently the world’s only producer of Fairmined Ecological Gold, a special label of the Fairmined Certification reserved for Fairmined Gold produced without the use of mercury or cyanide.

The origins of XAMODX lie in a shifting climate that is becoming less suitable for nomadic herding, once a predominant livelihood in Mongolia. After many years of “dzuds,” or difficult climate conditions involving extremely cold, hard winters that killed large percentages of livestock, several Mongolian herding communities moved to an abandoned mining site called Tsagaan tsakhir in the Bayan-Ovoo Soum territory. This all occurred at the tail end of Mongolia’s economic transition, when unemployment was rising dramatically. The only available alternative to raising livestock, the community of just over 2000 turned their focus to mining (though they continue to maintain livestock, as well as a few small businesses and workshops). In less than ten years, with a lot of hard work and assistance from SAM, XAMODX has obtained the world’s most rigorous certification for ethical gold, and is the first organization in the world to offer Fairmined Ecological Gold. Women are active leaders in XAMODX, which was officially established as an NGO in 2009 with the main goals of protecting the rights and improving the livelihoods of local miners. Now as a Fairmined certified organization, XAMODX will be able to export high quality ethical gold and at a fair price, enabling them to make further improvements to their community.

The overall goal of Fairmined is to build an exchange between small scale artisanal miners and markets, such that miners are guaranteed a fair price for their goods, the gold industry places value on socially and environmentally responsible mining, and consumers are able to connect to where their gold came from with the assurance that is was ethically mined. Fairmined gold is fully traceable to its origin. By purchasing Fairmined gold, consumers contribute to positive change by supporting an ethical gold industry and developing an informed and meaningful connection to the people and place where their product came from. To learn more about Fairmined gold, read our article here.

 

Helpful Links:

fairmined.org

Alliance for Responsible Mining

Ecological Gold from Mongolia: Artisanal Miners Obtain Fairmined Certification

 

 

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FAIRMINED Gold,Metals,Mining

An Introduction to Pact

By Alyssa on April 1, 2015 at 12:54 pm

untitled-1_0

 

Pact is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that works with poor and marginalized communities around the world to help them attain a decent livelihood and healthy lifestyle, with a focus on sustainability. Bario Neal is particularly interested in Pact because of their Mines to Markets project, in which Pact applies its mission to mining communities in Colombia, DRC, Burundi, Ethiopia, MadagascarTanzania, and elsewhere (click links for details on each project).

Pact has been in action for over 42 years, developing solutions in collaboration with the communities they serve, establishing strong partnerships with communities and stakeholders, and conducting results-driven work. Pact’s stated purpose is to “enable systemic solutions that allow those who are poor and marginalized to earn a dignified living, be healthy, and take part in the benefits that nature provides. Pact accomplishes this by strengthening local capacity, forging effective governance systems, and transforming markets into a force for development” (click the links to learn how Pact defines these criteria).

All of Pact’s projects focus on achieving three main goals:

-helping vulnerable people access the health products, services, and information they need for a healthy lifestyle

-helping people with limited livelihood choices attain the resources necessary to enable income security

-assisting resource-dependent communities with the development of sustainable practices in order to provide for a viable livelihood

Pact’s overall vision is of a world in which the poor and marginalized are heard, able to build their own solutions, and take ownership of their future. Pact focuses on many different communities around the globe, and their Mines to Markets program is an ideal fit for their mission–in this specific case, to help resource-dependent communities obtain lasting benefits from the sustainable use of their natural resources. With increased income and the agency to get the resources they need, the communities with which Pact has worked have seen an increase in standards of living, better education, and the prospect of a livelihood that extends far into the future because of the implementation of sustainable practices. In Madagascar, Pact has reduced the number of children in exploitative labor including commercial sex work, domestic servitude, and dangerous mining activities by more than 9,000 since 2008. As part of their promise of a healthy lifestyle, Pact works to prevent diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. In 2013, Pact was awarded $9 million by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Affairs to carry out a 4-year project to reduce child labor while increasing the safety of adult mine workers in Colombia (you can read more about that here). Pact also helps communities organize and come together, giving them a greater ability to develop dependable sources of income and have their voices heard.

To learn more about Pact, visit their website.

 

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Health & Labor,Mining

Bario Neal at the 5th Annual IAC Gold Conference

By Alyssa on March 25, 2015 at 10:34 am

h2_1991.419.39

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Mask, 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D.
Colombia; Ilama
Gold; H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
Jan Mitchell and Sons Collection, Gift of Jan Mitchell, 1991 (1991.419.39)

 

 

Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC) will host its fifth annual Gold Conference Thursday, April 9 – Friday, April 10, 2015 at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave, NY, NY. Bario Neal is excited to be attending what promises to be an informative and engaging event. This year’s conference will take a comprehensive look at gold jewelry and the precious metal itself, with a focus is on transparency, trends and techniques within the gold industry. More specifically, topics such as the emotional power of this precious metal, its enduring cultural value, trends and trend forecasting, developments in the marketplace, marketing techniques, ensuring customers of the quality and ethicality of their purchases, extraction and metalsmithing techniques, cutting-edge technologies, educating the next generation of jewelers, marketing, ethical mining issues, FTC updates on issues relating to Dodd-Frank and Made in America, among others, will be covered. In addition to the formal presentations on this wide range of topics, IAC has organized private evening receptions and viewings at Aaron Faber Gallery and Doyle & Doyle, as well as book signings.

This year’s presenters include Master goldsmiths Daniel Brush and Barbara Heinrich; jewelers Alishan Halebian, Susan Helmich, Jose Hess, Ana Khouri, Anita Ko, Alison Chemia, and Elizabeth Doyle of Doyle & Doyle; David Bouffard, VP, Corporate Affairs, Signet Jewelers; Mark Hannah, CMO, Richline Group; Matthew Hart, author, Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal; Rob Bates, Senior Editor, JCK; Michelle Graft, Editor-in-chief, National Jeweler, Claudia Mata, Accessories and Jewelry Director, W, Jack Ogden, historian and industry consultant; Benjamin Zucker, renowned collector; Cecelia Gardner, President, CEO, and General Counsel, Jewelers Vigilance Committee; Mark B. Mann, Director, Global Jewelry Manufacturing Arts, Gemological Institute of America, and many more.

You can find registration information on this website. Click here to view full event flyer.

Initiatives in Art and Culture is an organization that aims to provide educational opportunities in the fine, decorative, and visual arts through conferences, publications and exhibitions. Primary issues examined include fabrication, connoisseurship, cultural patrimony, cultural preservation, and the future of culture with particular focuses on American painting, precious substances, the history of frames, the Arts and Crafts movement, the influence of Asian cultures on American fine and decorative art, and the history and future of fashion.

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Metals,New York

Upcoming Conference: Reclaiming the Sierra, April 20-21

By Alyssa on March 12, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Conference_Card_1-up_12.3

Twice a year Reclaiming the Sierra, a strategic campaign of The Sierra Fund, hosts a conference in Sacramento, California–at one point the gleaming center of the California Gold Rush. Believe it or not, even though the original gold rush happened in the mid 1800’s-early 1900’s, effects of the historical mining activities continue to impact the region today. Reclaiming the Sierra is dedicated to addressing those ongoing impacts of legacy mining.

The upcoming conference, which will take place April 20-21, 2015, will focus on four main areas. The first is prioritizing remediation efforts to repair the damage done by the hydraulic and hardrock mining activities from the gold rush era. Clean up focuses mainly on the 10-13 million pounds of mercury that was released into the surrounding environment during the gold rush, which continues to effect the regions watersheds today. The remediation also addresses the physical hazards of old mine sites and landscapes that remain scarred today.

The second area of focus is on evaluating the best, most appropriate clean up technologies for the impacted land.

The third area of focus is on identifying the market and certification opportunities for E3 gold, which refers to gold that has been mined and produced in an environmentally sound, economically viable, and ethically managed manner. To learn more about issues of today’s gold industry, see our Metals and Fairmined Gold articles.

The final area of focus is on solutions for funding and regulation challenges associated with abandoned mine reclamation in California.

A wide range of people attend this conference, from policymakers and landowning/regulatory agencies, to scientific researchers and water quality experts, to reclamation firms, mining companies, public health specialists, and environmental advocates. If you are interested in registering, visit Reclaiming the Sierra’s website.

The Sierra Fund is a nonprofit community foundation whose mission is to increase investment in the natural resources of the Sierra Nevada. For more information visit their website.

 

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Environment,Metals,Mining

Latest Updates on Transgender Rights, and how we can all self-educate

By Alyssa on February 26, 2015 at 12:57 pm

o-TRANS-facebook

In 2014, and so far in 2015, there have been several legal, social media, and entertainment-related successes for the transgender community. But the successes were not without some wake up calls too, alerting us to the fact that as a nation we have a lot of self-educating to do, even within the LGBT community. Before I started writing this, I checked out GLAAD’s media reference page for transgender-related issues, which I found helpful in clarifying certain definitions and uses of terms–making sure you know what you’re talking about, and in the right ways, can only help increase your level of respect, especially as terms and definitions evolve.

While progress is being made in accepting, understanding, and supporting transgender people, and explicitly granting them their legal rights, they continue to experience severe disadvantages. Transgender people are disproportionately affected by hate crimes, especially transgender women, and face high levels of discrimination and poverty. The American Medical Association states that treatment for gender dysphoria is medically necessary, but insurance companies treat transition-related medical care as cosmetic. And while the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, it only applied to lesbian, gay, and bisexual personnel, so transgender people are still prohibited from serving in the military.

2014 began with the passing of the Affordable Care Act on January 1st, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and enabled eligible transgender Americans to receive transition-related care for the first time.

Then in April, the Department of Education added explicit protections for transgender students to Title IX. Also in education, three all-women’s colleges, including Mills College, Mount Holyoke College, and Simmons College, adopted policies that clearly state that all women can seek admission, regardless of what is listed on the applicant’s birth certificate or other legal documentation. Disappointingly, the Smith College board of trustees has stated that the class of 2020 will be the first to apply under an explicitly transgender-inclusive policy.

In Hollywood, there was upheaval concerning the straight actor Jared Leto portraying the transgender woman, Rayon, in Dalla Buyers Club, rather than an actual transgender woman. It was clear from his response to protesters that Leto, who argued that straight men play gay roles all the time and never once said the word “transgender” in any of his acceptance speeches, has some work to do in understanding what it means to be transgender. But he’s not the only one–read this article from Rolling Stone.

2014 also saw some improvements in the social media sector: Facebook now offers over 50 gender identities to choose from, and three gender pronouns. OKCupid also added nine sexual orientation and 19 gender options, while Google+ has started allowing users to type in their own gender. While not social media related, I can’t help but be reminded that most application forms I run into still only give two choices for gender.

As the year was coming to a close, the Department of Labor issued an executive order that protects transgender federal employees from workplace discrimination, a huge step forward as transgender people experience a disproportionate amount of workplace discrimination. This was followed by the release of a new federal regulation on Friday, January 30, 2015, clarifying that unlawful sex discrimination in the workplace includes bias against all LGBT workers, exhibiting the increasingly broad legal consensus that sex discrimination laws should extend to all LGBT workers, not just federal employees. Within the proposed rule it is stated that transgender workers must have equal access to workplace restrooms consistent with their identity (read this for more).

And in January 2015, for the first time in US History, President Obama said “transgender” and “bisexual” in a State of the Union address (read this article for more):

As Americans, we respect human dignity […] It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

Here are a few articles and resources for further self education on transgender issues:

http://nymag.com/news/features/transgender-children-2012-6/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/education/edlife/a-university-recognizes-a-third-gender-neutral.html?_r=0

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/03/18/about-a-boy-2

http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/19/politics/mike-honda-transgender-granddaughter/

http://nymag.com/news/features/martine-rothblatt-transgender-ceo/

http://www.impactprogram.org/lgbtq-youth/transgender-101/?gclid=CjwKEAiA05unBRCymrGilanF9SwSJACqDFRm7CH5sinhpc_RtGdD2tpK8J1jxk3x-9hl5Rf7I9RdXxoCxLDw_wcB#sthash.4SZglvHJ.dpbs

http://transequality.org/

http://www.glaad.org/transgender/trans101

http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx

 

Alabama Has (Pretty Much) Legalized Same-Sex Marriage

By Alyssa on February 16, 2015 at 6:06 pm

same-sex-marriage-coming-to-alabama

As of February 9th, 2015, same-sex marriage is legal in Alabama. But the legalization came with some struggle and confusion, including conflicting orders from federal and state courts.

Here’s the breakdown: On January 23rd federal Judge Callie Granade ruled in Searcy v. Strange that Alabama’s Marriage Protection Act is unconstitutional (read more about it here). Her ruling went into effect on February 9th.

In response, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore issued an order telling probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The legalities of his order were dubious, and the repercussions for judges who disregarded it were unclear. So, some judges issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples anyway (and were not punished), some judges complied with Judge Moore, while still others stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether, creating a huge headache for many.

On Thursday, February 12th, after a group of gay couples went back to federal court to claim their right to marriage licenses, Judge Granade agreed, ordering that all judges in the state of Alabama start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples (see here for more on that).

So where are we now? Most judges have been complying with Granade’s order to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but there is still one major hurdle to overcome, as the case is still on appeal. Though it seems unlikely, there is still a possibility that the ruling could be reversed, and Judge Moore will be fighting for the reversal nail and tooth. He has even said he’ll defy the US Supreme Court if it decides to back same-sex marriage in the upcoming hearings in April (see the article in the New York Times here and today’s article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

But Moore seems to be increasingly on the losing side: the US Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 last week to legalize same-sex marriage in Alabama. With Scalia and Thomas as the only dissenting judges, things seem to be looking up for a pro-equality ruling this spring. Marriage of Convenience, an essay that appeared in the New York Times Magazine on February 1st, gives a nice background on those upcoming hearings.

As of today, 37 states have legalized same-sex marriage, and 13 states have banned it. See here for a breakdown. We’ll provide updates as things progress this spring.

 

Further reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-baume/how-alabama-marriage-equality-got-so-messy_b_6690716.html

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_6j37.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Alabama

Conflict Minerals in Congo: Interview with the Enough Project’s Holly Dranginis

By Anna on January 5, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Dranginis during a visit in May to a tin mining community in Masisi territory, eastern Congo.

I met Holly Dranginis, a policy analyst for the Enough Project, at a roundtable discussion on responsible gold sourcing and mining this past summer. The Enough Project fights to end genocide and crimes against humanity, and their current initiatives are focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC or Congo), Sudan, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. The conflict in Congo, and the role of gold and other minerals in that conflict, has not been a constant headline in the US, but the details Holly shared about the war there are shocking. At the same time, the progress toward a more transparent, sustainable mineral trade that Holly outlined is impressive and inspiring. This winter I interviewed Holly about the war in Congo, the role of gold and other metals mining, and the Enough Project’s work there.

AB: The war in the DRC is the deadliest since World War II, taking the lives of more than 5.4 million people. Much of this violence has been funded by the extraction and trade of minerals including tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. Can you explain the relationship between these minerals and the conflict in the region for those who are unfamiliar?

HD: The war in Congo began following the Rwandan genocide in 1994. At that time, armed groups were motivated by political power and grievances, as well as tensions and trauma related to the genocide. But Congo’s lucrative natural resources quickly became a source of revenue for violent armed groups in Congo and their backers, including the national army, and eventually became part of the complex landscape of motivations that sustained the fighting. For over a decade, investigations have revealed that armed groups are financed by and motivated by exploiting natural resources. For most groups, in order to take control over those riches and run successful illegal trading networks, they terrorize the civilian populations. For example, rebel commanders enslave civilians to work under brutal conditions at the mines, they abduct children in the communities to work and fight as part of their forces, and they use rape to tear apart the fabric of communities, force people to flee out of fear, and submit to their orders. There are many things that motivate groups to do this, but conflict minerals are the driving financer of these activities, and often one of the motivators.

AB: Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act is intended to prevent armed groups and militias from profiting through the illicit minerals trade by requiring publicly-traded US companies to conduct supply chain audits and trace the gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten in their supply chain. I have been impressed by the impact of this legislation and the new awareness of supply chains it is creating in the jewelry industry. But Dodd Frank could be construed as effectively creating a boycott of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold from DRC and the surrounding countries. It has certainly impacted legitimate mining operations as well. What reactions have you heard from artisanal miners, regional companies, and Congolese government in response to the legislation?

HD: One very common reaction we hear on the ground, from diverse stakeholders including miners, mining community civil society groups, local government, and church leaders, is that Dodd Frank is spurring in-region reforms that have been desperately needed for decades, but never put in place because there wasn’t the right outside pressure. Now, after prolonged entrenched illegal conflict minerals trading and brutal violence, Dodd Frank is creating market incentives to put pressure on regional authorities to finally build a clean minerals trade and support local economies by transitioning a lawless, violent minerals sector into a formalized trade. This will not be an overnight process, however, and yes, the livelihoods of legitimate, peaceful artisanal miners are harmed by the market forces that are making it less profitable for armed groups to terrorize civilians for control over mineral wealth. That’s why more reforms are needed to accompany Dodd Frank to make sure artisanal miners have a fluid way of joining the growing clean minerals trade in Congo, or have alternative livelihoods opportunities like agriculture and small business. We work on building support for in-region projects like this, especially among companies. One of our biggest advocacy goals is to create awareness and momentum among retail companies to source from the region, and support the development of a clean minerals trade there. Some bold, responsible companies have committed to continue to source from the region and helped build clean sourcing initiatives there. Boycotting the region is not the responsible thing to do, and in the long run, with more investment, some of the most prosperous business will hopefully be in Congo’s clean minerals trade.

Mining in Congo (Enough Project)

 

AB: The electronics industry and the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition have been at the forefront of developing traceable, conflict-free mineral sources in DRC. Beyond supply chain audits and due diligence, how has the industry partnered with organizations like the Enough Project to create conflict-free products with materials from DRC? What are the parallels for how the jewelry industry can contribute?

HD: Industry actors have collaborated with Enough and other groups in a number of ways apart from supply chain management. First, companies like Intel, Motorola Solutions, and AVX have, with help from advocacy organizations like Resolve, Enough, and Congolese civil society councils, piloted closed-pipe conflict-free mines in Congo to begin to establish clean minerals sourcing opportunities for companies who want to support the region, along with job opportunities and growth for local communities. It would be a game-changer to see a critical mass of jewelry companies get involved in supporting conflict-free gold mines in the Great Lakes region, especially Eastern Congo. We are already starting to see interest and involvement in a closed-pipe gold mine in the Kivus by companies like Tiffany and Signet, but these initiatives need a broader push and financial support to advance those mines and make sure artisanal miners and communities benefit.

The other major impact of our collaboration with the tech industry has been in raising public awareness, especially on college campuses, which in turn launch their own powerful campaigns to influence the wider public. We’ve worked with Intel and others to create short videos to help explain the issues, hold rallies on college campuses and big public events with celebrity upstanders like Aaron Rodgers and Robin Wright. Tech companies have been with us organizing and supporting these initiatives, hoping to educate their consumer audiences and empower the next generation to carry the momentum forward. Jewelry companies, large and small, could follow that example, especially with their power in advertising and around the holidays. People attach sentimentality and enormous value to jewelry and jewelry brands – companies could use that power to raise awareness and elevate the importance of this issue to a broad public audience.

AB: How can smaller jewelers support the development of conflict-free gold mines in DRC? What is the scale of investment needed?

HD: There is broad range of investment needed, especially considering the important need for investment in artisanal mining communities and alternative livelihoods. The beauty of the in-region initiatives is that they are generally very collaborative and multi-stakeholder in nature, taking into account a number of different interests and perspectives, including downstream companies, mining companies, local and national government, and both local and international civil society groups. For the conflict-free sourcing initiatives, even small investments can make a difference. For community projects helping create agriculture or micro-finance opportunities or formalize artisanal mining, investment can start even lower to have a meaningful impact. Funds are needed for small business loans, distributing registration cards to artisanal miners, buying equipment for safer mining practices, and school fees for children who once worked in the mines, but due to reforms, are now given the chance to leave the mines and go to school. Small jewelry companies can make very important contributions with smaller grants to programs like that through their organizers, including Partnership Africa Canada, Solutions for Hope, and UNICEF. Small companies can also join efforts by attending events like Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forums on responsible sourcing, the Responsible Sourcing Network’s multistakeholder calls on conflict minerals, or the Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade. Small jewelers are also critical in raising awareness about the issue. The jewelry industry traditionally is very powerful over public consciousness, in part because consumers attach so much personal and sentimental value to the jewelry they buy. Public awareness does not happen overnight, and it doesn’t need to be widescale to be important. If small jewelers can influence a small subset of their customers to take interest in this issue, that interest can have ripple effects.

AB: Can you tell us more about the Mukungwe and Masisi conflict-free gold mines under development in the Kivus?

HD: The Mukungwe and Masisi mines are meant to build on successful conflict-free sourcing initiatives in Congo in tin and tantalum. The vision for investors, communities, NGOs and companies involved is to build fully conflict-free large-scale gold mines in eastern Congo. That way refiners and companies will have clear options for supporting Congo’s gold trade while still complying with Dodd Frank 1502. Mukungwe and Masisi are two examples of that vision in development. They are both works in progress, working to responsibly address conflict risk factors, and community needs, including alternative livelihoods programs and shared understanding of the mines’ impact on human rights and the environment. These kinds of projects must develop and maintain true multi-stakeholder involvement – including new mining police, tasked with helping to monitor security and transparency, and the invaluable work of local community-based organizations to monitor the projects’ impact. With this kind of investment, opportunities for conflict-free sourcing will increase, and gold mining communities will see increased security as armed groups are pushed out and replaced by regulated mining activities.

 

A community agricultural project near Bukavu, South Kivu province (Enough Project)

AB: The tension between large-scale and artisanal mining occurs alongside mineral and gemstone extraction all over the world. Because of the complexities of oversight, security, protocols, and international trade, investment can tend to focus on larger scale mines. How are the conflict-free 3T and gold mines in development in DRC approaching the relationship with artisanal miners?

HD: Large scale mining is an important way for Congo to benefit from its natural resources, as long as the industry development is done in a responsible manner, complementary to artisanal mining. Large-scale mining has the potential to bring revenues and development to the population. It’s true that when a large-scale mine is established, it can be at odds with artisanal mining communities because many artisanal miners may already be surface-mining the area that is set for development into a large scale mine. The responsible thing for companies and government partners to do is first, consult early and often with the artisanal mining community to assess the impact of the proposed large-scale mine and understand the grievances and interests of the artisanal miners and their families; second, to employ as many local artisanal miners as possible in the large-scale mine, and allow artisanal miners to continue mining parts of the concession wherever possible; and finally, to invest generously in alternative livelihoods projects for artisanal miners who can’t be employed by the mining company because of limits on the number of workers needed for large-scale mines.

AB: With initiatives like Fairmined or Fairtrade gold, much effort goes into the labeling, tracking, and tracing of the materials even after it’s been made into jewelry. Do you see conflict-free gold from DRC going this route? Would it be, for lack of a better term, ‘branded’ as conflict-free gold from DRC?

HD: The more transparency at any stage in the sourcing of gold and production of jewelry, the better. We encourage a variety of different approaches to ensuring that retail companies and consumers know where their gold is coming from and whether or not it is verified conflict-free. We’re also supportive of country-of-origin transparency because simply conflict-free gold without transparency about where the gold is from could indirectly encourage an embargo on the Great Lakes region and falls short of a comprehensively responsible approach to conflict-free gold sourcing. Truly responsible companies will support growth and development and peace in areas like Congo where gold has fueled conflict, rather than focusing on sourcing conflict-free gold from places where conflict hasn’t occurred in recent memory.

AB: Are there initiatives such as women’s cooperatives, microlending, or miner education that work with artisanal miners in the region?

HD: There are a number of incredible Congolese organizations working on this issue, including Synergie des Femmes in North Kivu and Maman Shujaa in South Kivu – both are women’s organizations designed to support women affected by violence in eastern Congo. The leaders and members of these organizations take great interest in the development of conflict-free sourcing initiatives because conflict minerals have a significant adverse impact on the safety and wellbeing of women and girls. Armed groups use rape as a weapon of war as part of their strategies to control mining areas in the east, and even in times of relative peace, mining areas are hotbeds of prostitution, rape, and child labor. Synergie and Mama Shujaa take a comprehensive, locally-led approach to these issues and do invaluable work to support communities and solve problems from the grassroots.

In addition, international groups like Eastern Congo Initiative, Partnership Africa Canada, and UNICEF are all doing work in this space – creating alternative livelihoods for former artisanal miners in areas like agriculture and small business, transitional child laborers into school, and helping support, educate, and equip artisanal miners for safer, more regulated, and more profitable work in mines.

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Metals,Mining

Obama Protects Alaska’s Bristol Bay from Oil and Gas Drilling, NY to ban Fracking

By Roxy on December 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Obama Protects Alaska’s Bristol Bay from Oil and Gas Drilling, via the LA Times.

“This is one of the most important ocean protection decisions that this or any president has ever made,” said Marilyn Heiman, U.S. Arctic program director for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “This is a victory for the people of Bristol Bay who have fought for more than 30 years.

“There are just some places that are too special to risk,” she said. “Bristol Bay is one of those places.”

But Tuesday’s action is only a partial protection for the remote region. Federal officials are expected to decide in coming months whether to allow the largest open-pit mine in North America to be dug in the Bristol Bay watershed.

This year, a study by the Environmental Protection Agency reported that the proposed Pebble Mine would have a devastating effect on the same fishery that Obama acted to preserve Tuesday.

This is huge victory for conservationists, fishermen, and Native Alaskans. I’m very happy to read this news today, even though there is still work to be done to protect the Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine, which would cause devastation to the landscape and economy.

Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks, via the NY Times.

That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

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New Engagement Rings From Bario Neal

By Roxy on December 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm

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Our New Engagement Rings. Available to purchase instore and online.

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