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.

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.

Continue reading Australian Diamonds

Could Cornstarch Replace Cyanide in Gold Extraction?

By Anna on May 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

gold-mine-391420_640

New research shows the possibilities of cornstarch to to replace cyanide in gold extraction. The use of cornstarch could greatly improve the environmental and health impacts of gold mining and scrap separation. Thanks to Toby Pomeroy for sharing!

 

Fair Trade Diamonds on the Market Soon

By Anna on October 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

This is a great interview from Fair Jewelry Action with Mike Angenent of Open Source Minerals and Jeweltree.  We’re looking forward to working with stones from the Diamond Development Initiative and DC Diamascorp.

Introductory Comments

Those wishing to have a diamond which aligns with the values associated with engagement and marriage often choose Canadian diamonds, despite their impact on the ecology, and the fact that Africa needs the diamond trade for their economic development.  Though there are a few notable exceptions, when large scale diamond mining companies operate in Africa, most of the economic benefit derived from the mine leaves the country.

A few organizations have been attempting to work with small scale mining communities in order to produce a principles and standards within a chain of custody for  fair trade diamonds.  Mike Angenent has been at the forefront, and has recently announced that a fair trade diamond will be coming to market.  Here is what he has to say about the project.

Can we start with where are these diamonds coming from?

For starters, South Africa and Sierra Leonne.

What key agencies are you working with to bring this diamond to market?

There are a few projects in the pipeline. One with DC Diamascorp concerning small scale and artisanal mining in South Africa and a project with Diamond Development Initiative  (DDI) concerning artisanal mining in Sierra Leon.

Continue reading Fair Trade Diamonds on the Market Soon

Recycled Metals

By Anna on June 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Gold smelting

 

Working with recycled precious metals is an important part of our process at Bario-Neal. We focus on sourcing the most environmentally and socially responsible metals and stones possible. One hundred percent recycled precious metals are the best option currently available, as they don’t require additional mining.

Our recycled silver, gold, palladium, and platinum come from two primary sources: Abington Reldan Metals, a refinery about 40 minutes from our Philadelphia shop, and Hoover and Strong, a refinery in Richmond, Virginia. These refineries take in scraps of precious metals, dust and filings from jewelers’ workshops, old or unwanted jewelry, silverware, silver from photo processing, as well as metals from electronic devices. The refineries collect, sort, melt, and refine these materials into forms that jewelers like Bario-Neal can use again, such as casting grain, sheet metal, and wire.

Our refineries aren’t only committed to producing 100% recycled metals, they are also invested in the environmental and health impacts of their facilities. We’ve visited both refineries, and we’re impressed with their advances in reducing waste and energy use. Hoover and Strong has been in business since 1912, and their recycled metals are third-party certified to ensure the recycled content. They maintain four large fume scrubbers to reduce emissions that cause air pollution. Hoover and Strong also uses the Miller Process (http://bario-neal.com/bn/blog/?p=12) to refine gold, which reduces acid use by 85%. Abington Reldan Metals is a LEED Silver certified facility, and they’ve been operating for over 30 years. They also use waste heat from the refining process to heat the manufacturing plant and for domestic hot water, as well as for the sludge drying and water evaporation process. This heat recovery has reduced their energy consumption by about 20-25%. Both facilities maintain a closed loop for water, meaning there is zero discharge and all the waste-water is treated and re-used in the refinery.

Continue reading Recycled Metals

Mercury in Artisanal Gold Mining

By Anna on February 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

credit: Artisanal Gold Council

Mercury pollution is one of the greatest risks in artisanal gold mining, the term used to refer to small-scale mining done primarily by hand in more than 70 countries worldwide. Artisanal gold mining (ASM) produces about 20% of the world’s gold, and an estimated 20 million people conduct ASM.  ASM is also the world’s leading source of mercury release into the environment.

Miners use mercury to separate gold from ore and silt, in a process called mercury amalgamation. The mercury attracts and binds with the gold. The mixture (or amalgam) is washed to remove any remaining silt, and miners typically then light the amalgam of gold and mercury on fire, to burn off the mercury. The mercury is thus released into the air and waterways, causing risks to human health as well as watersheds.

Several mercury recapture (or retort) systems exist, though they are not used by the majority of artisanal miners or small-scale refiners and ‘gold shops.’ These reclamation systems not only prevent much of the release of mercury into the air and water, but also recapture the mercury -an expensive resource for artisanal miners- for re-use.  Green Leaf Gold and the EPA describe a couple of great examples of these devices:

Green Leaf Gold – Mercury Recovery a Success!

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – International Actions for Reducing Mercury Emissions and Use

While the reclamation systems drastically reduce the amount of mercury released into the air, water and land, the systems are a significant expense for artisanal miners. A miner who might bring in $300 a month in gold sales would have to spend half his/her monthly income on the device.

One of the biggest issues in mercury pollution and ASM is a lack of education about the dangers of mercury exposure. The United Nations Environment Programme works to “protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land,” and describes the ASM sector as the largest global consumer of mercury.

 

For more information:

UNEP Global Mercury Partnership

Artisanal Gold Council

Mercury Watch

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 credit: Artisanal Gold Council

credit: Artisanal Gold Council

credit: Artisanal Gold Council

“Red Gold” Screening at Bario Neal October 14th

By Anna on October 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm

redgold_case_wrap

Red Gold is a 55-minute documentary film by Travis Rummel and Ben Knight about the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. It is as much a celebration of salmon and the people of Bristol Bay as it is a look at mining development. The documentary took home top honors at the May 2008 Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado, winning the Audience Award and the Festival Director’s Award.

This screening is part of Design Philadelphia and is free and open to the public.

Please join us October 14th at 7pm
Bario-Neal workshop & showroom
700 S. 6th St. (at Bainbridge)
Philadelphia, PA 19147
215.454.2164

For more information: www.redgoldfilm.com, www.designphiladelphia.org


Engraving

By Anna on July 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Bario-Neal provides a couple of options for engraving your rings and other jewelry – hand engraving or laser engraving.

For our hand engravings, we work with two wonderful engravers, Charlie and Pat. Charlie’s a WWII veteran who came back from the war and wanted to be a jewelry designer. At the time, there were very few jewelry schools, and the industry was even more of a family business than it is now. Charlie attended the now-defunct Philadelphia Engraving school on the GI bill, and has been doing wonderful hand engravings ever since. Pat carries on the tradition of his family’s three generation old hand engraving business

Hand engravings can be done in simple print (sans-serif), block lettering (serif), script, or many others. Our default engraving style is print.

We can also do computerized laser engraving. Laser engraving can be done in a simple serif or sans serif font (think Times or Arial).We can also laser engrave an image -like your own simple line drawing- or a specialty font, including characters in other languages.

If you have any questions about engravings, just let us know.

Ring Sizing Tips

By Anna on December 4, 2009 at 11:24 am

Ring sizing can be confusing, so we’ve laid out some tips below to help you get the most accurate read on your ring size.

ringsizer1

Finger size can vary depending on the season, the temperature, the time of day, and the design of the intended ring. Fingers tend to shrink a bit in the cold, so:

-Measure rings sizes when your fingers are warm towards the end of the day.

-Keep in mind that a more delicate ring will fit more loosely; a more substantial ring will fit more tightly.

-Generally, the average woman’s ring size is around 6, and the average man’s size is around 10.

The best way to find your ring size is to go to a local jewelry shop to get sized. Although jewelers’ measurements may vary slightly, this is the most accurate method. There are several online printable paper ring sizers, but these are usually inaccurate.

If you are trying to get your partner’s ring size without letting them know:

-Measure the inside diameter of one of their existing rings. Wikipedia has a helpful measurement and size conversion guide.

-Ask around. Your partner’s family and friends might know.

If you purchase an engagement or commitment ring from us, and it doesn’t fit, we’re happy to resize it for you within 30 days.

Fair Trade and Fair Mined Gold Survey

By Anna on September 11, 2009 at 6:34 pm

dosminerosbolivia3

Calling all jewelers. The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) and the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) have been working together for the past three years to develop fair trade gold. In advance of their plans to launch fair trade gold in 2010, the organizations are asking those in the industry to help provide some information to make the launch as successful as possible, and to maximize the adoption and sales of fair trade gold.

ARM and FLO are looking for jewelers, goldsmiths, designer-makers, large and small retailers, manufacturers, refiners, bullion dealers and gold traders to take the survey.  You can take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=rPcDXz0aFnxTa3N21y2mVQ_3d_3d and it only takes about 10 minutes.

Greg Valerio, on behalf of the Fairtrade Foundation UK, writes of the fair trade gold efforts:

‘The adoption of fairtrade gold by the industry will hail significant developmental impact for the millions of small-scale miners around the world and will play a foundational role in addressing the negative environmental impact of mining as a whole. The fairtrade gold standard has been 3 years in the creation through an extensive international multi-stakeholder consultation process. The final standard is now out for public review at www.fairtrade.net/setting_the_standards.html or www.communitymining.org/ so in addition to contributing to the market survey you can also review and comment on the standards behind the fairtrade gold offer.’