Blog Archive: Mining

Where does your gold come from? A discussion in San Francisco on Fairmined gold initiatives

By Roxy on October 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 1.15.07 PM

RSVP by October 5th for this event. Get to know the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Fairmined gold initiatives.

Event takes place on October 16th at 6:30PM at the Makeshift Society, 235 Gough St., San Francisco CA 94102

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Top Notch Faceting’s Jean Noel Soni

By Roxy on September 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Jean-Noel Soni is the mastermind behind Top-Notch Faceting. Jean creates award-winning, precision cut gemstones that are ethically-sourced, cut by hand, and created without the use of computer-aided design . In his words, the unique facets in his gemstones are “all figured by man.” I had the opportunity to take a peek at his notebook and the degree of detail and geometry that goes into every gemstone is remarkable. Speaking with Jean, it’s clear that he is incredibly knowledgeable about the materials he sources, and is passionate about his process and unique perspective on the industry.

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Jean-Noel Soni’s interest in gemstones began at an early age. Raised by his mother, a collector of antique jewelry, Jean was surrounded by intricate vintage trinkets as well as his mother’s talented jeweler friends. His introduction to gemstone cutting started in 2009, taking a once-a-week class at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. The curriculum was solely in cabochon cutting, or stones that are polished and shaped without facets. Jean’s interest in gemstone cutting took off.  Jean states that cabochon cutting is very precise and this experience aided his understanding in creating the dimensions for a stone.

Since Randall didn’t offer classes in facet cutting, Jean decided to take matters into his own hands. Saving money to spend on gem cutting equipment every few months, Jean turned to how-to books in gemstone faceting, including a vintage German book his mother owned from 1896.  At this point, it seemed clear that gemstone cutting was Jean’s calling. Jean picked out other books from the library, paying close attention to the detailed diagrams, illustrating interesting facets and techniques.

16.10ctOregonSunstoneBefore 16.10ctOregonSunstoneAfter

More or less self-taught, Jean’s work is precise and thoughtful.  He strives to create heirlooms from gemstones with the understanding that the material is finite. Never creating the same stone twice, Jean takes the needed time to design each stone. “For me, I really enjoy the challenge of taking whatever shape is presented to me and changing that into a gemstone. It can be challenging depending on the shape of the stone.”

Browsing through Jean’s instagram he is clearly prolific. “I love to work. I love the challenge and the ritual.” He was kind enough to send us a few before and after shots of stones, as well as a few shots from his studio. The transformation of a rough stone into a gem is quite magical and even sculptural.

17.46ctRhodoliteGarnetBefore 17.46ctRhodoliteGarnetAfter 4.82ctImperialGarnetBefore 4.82ctImperialGarnetAfter 1.87ctBenitoiteBefore 1.87ctBenitoiteAfter 1.79ctNigerianSapphireBefore 1.79ctNigerianSapphireAfter

“I use an older faceting machine. By machine, it is only a motor that spins round grinding wheels in different grits, horizontally. Each facet on every stone is ground down in finer and finer grits until each is polished. The trick lies in keeping all the facets at the proper depth and keeping symmetry. [This is] all done by eye and hand. There is also a whole other slew of things that go into cutting a gem including orientation of the crystal, dopping (attaching) the stone to a quill with wax so it doesn’t fall off and polishing, which is it’s own science by itself. I do not use any computer programs for my work at all. The materials are all very different and I feel that computers can only account for so much. Besides it’s more fun to figure out the stones with my own head.”

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I asked Jean about his views in the gemstone industry and appreciated his honest and critical approach. He mentioned that often in the industry, gems are cut for optimal weight, rather than precision cutting, which brings out natural beauty of the stone. “In the commercial gemstone cutting industry, it’s business as usual.” Jean notes that in the industry, people source cheaper materials rather than the quality of stone, but notes that a few people, such as himself, are searching for high quality products.

Jean prides himself in his ethical sourcing, saying the best way to ensure that a stone is ethical is to work small and stay local. Jean works directly with miners, traveling to places as diverse as Romania, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. His stones are  vibrant, clear, and untreated. Some of his favorite stones to work with are garnets and zircons. Every once in a while, Jean will find a zircon stone with a phenomena called double-refraction, which creates an almost double-vision effect. “You’re essentially watching the molecules vibrate.”

Please join us at NextFab Studios for a discussion with Jean-Noel Soni about his practice on September 24th, from 5-7PM. Please sign up here: https://nextfab.ticketleap.com/jewelry-lecture/dates/Sep-24-2014_at_0500PM

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Saturday Reading: EPA Decision on Bristol Bay Pebble Mine, Mountaintop Removal Victory, Polar Vortex Linked to Climate Change

By Roxy on September 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Photo of the Bristol Bay in Alaska by Jim Klug

EPA Propose Limits on Alaska’s Pebble Mine Project via the Washington Post:

Dennis McLerran, the regional administrator for EPA Region 10, told reporters Friday the agency had concluded that even a mine much smaller than the one currently envisioned by Pebble’s sponsors would produce “almost unfathomable amounts of rock” which “posed significant risks to the fragile ecosystem” in Bristol Bay.

The EPA was taking this step “to protect the world’s largest salmon greatest fishery what would certainly be one of the world’s largest open pit mine developments ever conceived of,” he said.

Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Wins Huge Court Victory, via ILoveMountains.org:

In a huge victory for our water and our future, a federal appeals court stated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are authorized to enforce laws on water pollution from mountaintop removal mines.

After years of effective organizing, our movement pressured the EPA to issue a water quality guidance in 2011 that used peer-reviewed science to show the devastating impacts that mountaintop removal coal mining has on Appalachia’s water. Unfortunately, a coalition including the National Mining Association and the state governments of Kentucky and West Virginia sued to prevent the EPA from protecting our water from dangerous coal pollution.

This important ruling says that the EPA was correct to enforce the law and follow the science to protect Appalachian waters and community health.

Remember that brutal, frigid winter we had here on the east coast? This seems obvious, but a new study has linked the polar vortex to climate change.

via Slate.com:

As the last few days of summer linger, you’d be forgiven if you feel a wave of anxiety upon the inevitable return of crisp, cold mornings. There’s no two ways about it: Last winter, replete with polar vortexes galore, was brutal. And we may not have seen the last of them.

New research published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications attempts to track the polar vortex disturbances back to their source.

The study, written by a team of Korean and American scientists, is the latest (and perhaps most comprehensive) attempt to answer a question that’s as hot as any in climate science right now: What’s the impact of melting Arctic sea ice on extreme weather?

Through a blend of statistical analysis of recent weather and computer modeling of a world in which rapid Arctic ice loss hadn’t occurred, the study establishes a link between the warming ocean, melting ice, and weakened polar vortex. For the first time, the study also proposes an epicenter of action where years of extreme ice loss in particular appear to dominate this process: a remote part of the Arctic between Scandinavia and Siberia.

I reached study co-author Seong-Joong Kim, a climate scientist at the Korea Polar Research Institute, by phone in a Seattle hotel room, where he was preparing to discuss his work with American colleagues at a conference devoted to extreme weather and Arctic sea ice.

As strange as it sounds, Kim believes the intense cold air outbreaks in recent winters across Europe, Asia, and North America are, in his words, “a side effect of global warming.” Building on results released in the new paper and his interpretation of other researchers’ findings, here’s his best guess of what’s going on. Abnormally warm waters in the tropical Atlantic travel up the Gulf Stream toward Europe in the late summer and fall months, motivating exceptional sea ice melt in the Barents-Kara seas north of Scandinavia. When that area is ice free, the open water releases heat into the atmosphere during November and December, and sets up an anomalous blocking pattern over the Ural Mountains. By midwinter, as more and more heat is being transferred to the Arctic, the troposphere and stratosphere can link updestabilizing the polar vortex, weakening the jet stream, and sendingwaves of cold air southward.

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Fairmined Initiatives Funding Education in Relave, Peru

By Roxy on August 28, 2014 at 10:21 am

We recently received a lovely e-mail from Ethical Metalsmiths to jewelers using FAIRMINED gold: “Responsibly sourced, fairly mined, fairly traded, transformative and fully traceable gold is no longer an idea, but a reality and you are the ones making it happen in the United States […] What I am most excited about and think you may be too, is that the premiums you paid on your certified gold has been applied to the building a of a new high school in Relave, Peru. The use of the premium is democratically decided by a committee.” We are so proud to see the benefits to the mining community and their families. Images courtesy of Ethical Metalsmiths.

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Australian Diamonds

By Anna on July 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Bario Neal is proud to offer ethical, traceable Australian diamonds. Currently, all of our Australian diamonds originate from the Argyle Diamond Mine (ADM) in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. We are also exploring a new source for rough diamonds from the Ellendale Diamond Mine, in West Kimberley, but for this post we’ll focus on the Argyle Mine.

Far from any populated areas, in a region of precipitous mountains and severe cliffs that descend into lakes and rivers reflecting the bright red soils and deep green scrubby foliage, lies the Argyle Diamond Mine. The Argyle mine is the world’s only significant producer of rare pink diamonds, and produces a large portion of the world’s supply of naturally colored diamonds, including champagne, cognac, and rare blue diamonds. The Ellendale mine is especially known for its production of rare yellow diamonds.

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Fairmined Gold Now Available On Our Website

By Roxy on June 11, 2014 at 10:28 am

We are excited to announce that Fairmined gold is now available on our website in all of our wedding bands and engagement rings! Read more about Fairmined Gold..

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FAIRMINED Gold,Metals,Mining

Fairmined Gold

By Alyssa on May 2, 2014 at 7:18 pm

This article aims to keep our readers up to date on the complicated and nuanced path towards ethical and environmentally-conscious gold standards. More specifically, Bario Neal is currently committed to using Fairmined gold and plans to offer Fairtrade gold in the near future as well. In this article we lay out the details of the Fairmined gold standards set forth by the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM).  We also explain the difference between Fairmined and Fairtrade gold. Fairmined and Fairtrade standards and certification have the power to transform the gold mining industry, along with the lives of those dependent upon it. We will update this article as the ethical gold story unravels.

“Globally, over 100 million people depend on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) for survival. The 15 million ASM miners work in harsh and dangerous conditions to produce just 10-15 percent of global gold supplies, but they make up 90 percent of the global work force in gold extraction. These miners and their families are caught in a vicious circle of exploitation [and] illegality, and many lack the skills and resources to move forward. However, if managed responsibly, ASM mining can provide a great opportunity for poverty reduction and sustainable development for millions of people.” [1]

Bario Neal uses 100% recycled metals whenever possible, the exceptions being our bronze pieces and certain findings like earring backs and clasps that we aren’t able to make ourselves. We are also well aware that regardless of how much recycled metals we use, precious metals will continue to be mined and continue to be recycled. In response to the social and environmental issues surrounding metal mining, Bario Neal has been working to expand our commitment to ethical metal sourcing and more directly support responsible ASM mining. Fairmined gold has only recently become available to the US market, and we are proud to be one of the first jewelry companies to develop a relationship with sources for Fairmined gold.

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Saturday Reading: Updates on Bristol Bay and A Grim Report on Climate Change

By Roxy on April 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm
photo provided by Trout Unlimited shows sockeye salmon in a river in the Bristol Bay, Alaska watershed.

photo provided by Trout Unlimited shows sockeye salmon in a river in the Bristol Bay, Alaska watershed.

EPA Considers blocking massive gold mine proposed for Alaska, via The Washington Post

This is great news for the Bristol Bay and its community. The Pebble Mine would cause irreversible damage to the environment and fishing communities of Bristol Bay.

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a statement.

“It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

While the announcement does not mean the Obama administration has made a final decision to prohibit Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., a Canadian-based firm, from starting construction on the Pebble Mine project, it will delay it for months and make it much harder for the controversial project to move ahead at all.

 

Climate Signals, Growing Louder, via The New York Times.

A grim report on climate change is out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggesting that the effects of climate change are already happening and that the world is ill-prepared for its effects.

The report’s conclusions mirrored those of a much shorter but no less disturbing report issued two weeks ago by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society. Like the panel, the association declared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing.

The intergovernmental panel’s report (a companion report later this month will discuss what governments should do) could carry considerable weight with delegates to next year’s climate change summit meeting in Paris, at which the members of the United Nations will again try, after years of futility, to fashion a new global climate treaty. And together, the two reports could build public support for President Obama’s efforts to use his executive authority to limit greenhouse gases, most recently with a plan issued on Friday to reduce methane emissions from landfills, agricultural operations and oil and gas production and distribution.

The report can be read here.

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Development Diamonds; An Interview with Dorothée Gizenga, Executive Director of the DDI

By Roxy on January 8, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Dorothée Gizenga, Executive Director of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) speaks about the DDI and its relationship to the Kimberely Process in an interview with Ethical Metalsmiths. Excerpt below:

Photo Credit: DDI - Registration of artisanal miners in the province of Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

EM: There is a relationship between DDI and the Kimberley Process. Can you explain the relationship and help our readers understand the difference in the regulatory aims of the Kimberley Process and the development goals of DDI?

DDI was created to complement the Kimberley Process, an international conflict prevention mechanism. We address the issues that are not within the Kimberley Process mandate. There are socio-economic issues affecting artisanal miners who mine diamonds in alluvial fields, where conflict diamonds started. We believe that conflict prevention requires resolution of these development issues, issues that will not disappear on their own without intervention.

DDI represents the first attempt to take a holistic approach to the challenges of artisanal alluvial diamond production, working with governments, miners, civil society and industry to solve problems that will not disappear on their own and need sustained support. Through education and projects working directly with artisanal miners, DDI seeks to promote better understanding and concrete solutions for issues relating to the artisanal diamond-mining sector.

The Kimberley Process is most challenged in the alluvial diamond areas, where internal controls required by the certification scheme are weak or non-existent. DDI is working with governments to increase internal controls through projects, and enhance the implementation of the KP through policies and project. After a number of years, the KP now recognizes the importance of development and its effectiveness.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Greenland Rubies and the Exploitation of Greenland’s Natives

By Roxy on November 1, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Greenland's ruby deposits

Greg Velario writes on his blog about Greenland’s ruby deposits and the disruption of its natives’ way of living.

“As this photo demonstrates Greenland is rich in Ruby yet through institutional bureaucracy, corporate collusion and ethnic stereotyping the Bureau for Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) have prevented local people from creating a livelihood for themselves […]

Until the documentation of valuable gem deposits in Greenland, Inuits were allowed to gather, polish and sell gem material. Once exceptionally valuable ruby was documented by True North Gems, the BMP issued completely new mining laws and moved to exclude local people from the ruby deposits.

[…]

Indigenous Greenlanders had always been permitted to hunt, mine and fish according to traditional methods and they have a unique historical and traditional relationship with the ‘Inik Amak‘ meaning the ‘eternal fire’ or ‘the flame that never goes out’ that is a beautiful way to describe the ruby. However when the local people became empowered and broke out of the Danish Colonial stereo type of using low grade ruby for native ethnic carvings and wanted to cut and polish stones of gem quality value and sell to the world market, the ethnic Danish administration (BMP) broke their own mining laws (section 32 of the previous mineral code) to stop Greenlanders from earning a living.

There is a serious moral disconnect in the current situation in Greenland. The fact that bureaucrats can dictate, based on European colonial legislation whether a local person can own a ruby picked up from the ground seems grounded in ignorance at best and at worst a cynical piece of racial prejudice. Even the new pro Inuit government seems to have been deceived by the so-called small-scale mining gemstone experts who by their own confession; ‘Have no knowledge of artisanal and small-scale mining in the gemstone sector‘ (Jorn Skov Nielsen Director of BMP). Last month the Greenland Ombudsman judged that the BMP had acted outside of their powers in ordering the arrest and the confiscation of ruby gathered by local small-scale miners.”

Read more here.

Visit FreeGreenlandRuby.com