Tanzania Women Miner Association TAWOMA

By Page on April 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm

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This past fall at the Madison Dialogue summit Anna & I had the opportunity to meet Shamsa Diwani, secretary general of the Tanzania Women Miner Association TAWOMA. TAWOMA seeks to eradicate poverty in the mining areas of Tanzania by serving the interest of women and children in the mining communities. Below is an interview with Shamsa discussing TAWOMA and what the jewelry industry can do to support their mission. Anna & I are very excited to begin working with Shamsa to source stones for our next collection.

Could you tell me how TAWOMA was started & why?

TAWOMA was started by our previous Chairperson Martha Bitwale,. Before starting TAWOMA, she was employed by a private company dealing with mining and serving as a master dealer of gemstones. During this time, she had a feeling and asked herself: why do women not unite and try to buy and sell gemstones in a group and that way they will not be used by men.

She then decided to form a group of seven women and they started to buy and sell in the town. Slowly the group became 20 members. This was at Tanga Region (Kalalani) where they mine most of colored gemstones such as Garnets, Amethyst, Sapphire, Green Tourmaline, Citrine, Quartz etc. Then she traveled to other regions and introduce her idea to other women at Mwanza, Shinyanga, Tunduru, Morogoro and Mirerani, the other branches mined Gold, Tanzanite, Diamond and Ruby and other precious and semi-precious stones. More women picked the idea up and the number of members increased to 80 members in 1997. At that point they decided to register the Association and form a leadership.

Where would you like TAWOMA to be in the future?

Our vision is to eradicate poverty through the mining sector by having a lapidary centre where we can add value to our products and a big mineral marketing centre where we can sell our products.

How many women are members of TAWOMA? Is it growing?

The Association is always growing, now it has 350 members.

What is your leadership role in the community like?

Our leadership role in the community is to network and create awareness of mining activities especially for women and youth. Also work together with the government and the larger mining companies. We are involved in different projects with the communities such as environmental, health and awareness on legal rights in the mining areas. The communities do appreciate our activities.

Are you able to work with small-scale jewelers on an international level?

We are able to work with Small Scale Jewelers on International levels.

How could jewelers work with you if they wanted to use your gems?

If a Jeweler wants to work with our gems, they can contact me. Eventually, we shall have our Mineral Marketing Centre and it will easier. My name SHAMSA DIWANI, SECRETARY GENERAL, TANZANIA WOMEN MINERS ASSOCIATION, P.O. BOX 22741, DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA, EAST AFRICA.

TAWOMAS’ email address is tawomat@yahoo.com

As we have not yet established our website you can just order what you want and we will email you images of what is available.

What types of gems do you mine?

The types of gems we mine are: Tanzanite, Ruby, Sapphire, Tourmaline, Red Garnet, Rhodolite, Amethyst, Citrine, White Topaz, Moonstone, Yellow Scarpolite, Chrysoprase, Green Garnet, and Zircon.

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Has there been any difficulty in working with/or communicating with the larger mining operations?

It has not been difficult communicating with larger mining operations when need arise. In the future we would like to see TAWOMA being a leader in community development and poverty eradication by creating more jobs opportunities to the youth and women. Also we would like to see TAWOMA operating its own fair trade lapidary centre as well as having a well-organized Mineral Marketing Centre, in which we can promote our own ethical gemstones.

What are the major challenges that TAWOMA faces?

Our major challenges are:

Having enough funds to run our office and maintain communications with our branches.

Expertise in the mineral sector

Not having a Lapidary Centre with machinery and tools

Not having a Marketing Centre

Not having reliable transport to make trips to the mining sites

A lack of communications skills and teaching materials (computers, video camera, projector, laptop, scanner, printer, photocopier).

What could the international jewelry industry and others do to help you reach your goals?

The International Jewelry Industry/Community can help us by buying our products. By doing that, it will allow us reach our goal.

We shall also be happy if someone can donate the equipment (computers and projectors).

Could you tell me about the Miners Day that you are organizing?

We are organizing to hold Mineral Event (Miss Mineral) on the 4th May 2008 and Miners Day on 5th May 2008. We always hold the event of Miners Day every 5th of May in an effort to lobby our government to have a special day for miners as we normally have special days for different sectors. This day will unite all Stakeholders in the mining Industry. Big companies and small-scale miners will share and exchange experiences of their activities eg. mining, processing, marketing of minerals and finished products. It gives opportunity to learn from presenters, and meet buyers, also it is opportunity to talk to members of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals where they can air their suggestions, They also exhibit their products. We have done this since year 2004 each 5th of May, In 2004 – Morogoro (where they mine different type of semi-precious stones, Ruby and Gold), 2005 – Singida (where they mine Zircon and Gold) 2005 – Arusha (Tanzanite, Iolite, Spessatite, Rubinite, Green Garnet) 2007 – Shinyanga – (Diamond, Gold) and this year to in Dar es Salaam where they deal with sand, kaolin, aggregate. These are only few mentioned but many types of gemstones can be found. In this event we shall have chance to promote and introduce ethical jewelry and fair trade gold.

Our intention to make this day recognized officially and represent the small and large-scale miners together to the government.

Composting Good & Evil

By Anna on April 7, 2008 at 9:31 am

Ethical Metalsmiths put out a call for entries late in 2007. Their theme –Composting Good and Evil –invited artists to explore the dynamic between our intentions and our actions with regard to the earth’s resources and the way we live. Ethical Metalsmiths didn’t ‘judge’ the submissions, but presented all of them in an online exhibition and at two screenings during the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) conference in Savannah, Georgia. There is a gallery of all the submissions on the EM site here, and I’ve reposted a few of my favorites.

Amy Choi

Amy Choi

Abacus

I wanted to create a compelling piece that would act as a reminder to reconstruct the habit of reducing, reusing, and recycling garbage by reusing things that I normally throw into the garbage bin every day. I made an abacus ring from found materials. When I wear the ring, it will act as a reminder; in addition, it allows for metaphorically counting the merits that new habits will bring to the environment. I constructed an abacus from found objects and dyed the materials with teabags.

 

Teresa Faris

Teresa Faris

Collaboration with a Bird

I see artwork as a tool that elevates everyday thought to an exploratory level. I see the objects that I make as tools intended to help the viewer to either recall a memory/feeling or begin a new dialogue.

Helle Jorgensen

Helle Jorgensen

Softwear

My Softwear pieces are inspired by the ocean and its creatures. They are little experiments and studies of forms, e.g., coral, sea anemone and tentacles. I have been collecting pre-loved materials for many years and have a vast stash of tapestry wool.

Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis

Distorted Fibonacci

In the face of the environmental destruction that gold mining causes, it is our responsibility as jewelers to use alternative materials in adornment to help deter the public from the desire to wear gold. We must prove that jewelry can be beautiful and sustainable. I believe that a movement to reduce or all together discontinue the use of gold will be a positive shift in the jewelry community. It is a design challenge that will push the boundaries of materials, alter conceptions of value, and lead to innovative solutions. My recent works feature borosilicate glass, which leaves a much lighter ecological footprint on the earth than that of metals. I believe that the reflective and luminous characteristics of glass provide an effective alternative to gold. This piece entitled Distorted Fibonacci contains the spiral an ammonite fossil. This represents my inspiration from the natural beauty of the earth.

Janet Miller

Janet Miller

Francesca & Paolo

Ornamental and strong, these rings are seeking unity. The lovers who wear them are to be in constant dialogue with themselves, their environment, and each other. When far away in time and space, the rings presence is to remind each partner of the importance of interrelation and unity.

Yoko Noguchi

Yoko Noguchi

Broom-grass Ring

I was interested in broom-grass to be spot lighted as a jewelry, which is usually sweeping floors. I have the same feeling towards T-connection. Copper bullet jacket was found at my new work.

Masako Onodera

Masako Onodera

Remains

My work is the apparatus to awake viewers and wearers of their own bodies and evanescent life. In my work, I present grotesque, and peculiar, but oddly appealing simulated body parts of appendages, representing rampart, uncontrolled growth and decay. They are both sensual and strange, and suggest an experience of the body that is altered by the tactile and visual characteristics of the object.

Tabitha Ott

Tabitha Ott

Recycled Material Rings

Years ago, I thought about how many gift cards are purchased, used, and thrown away. Since then, I have saved and collected every gift card. My goal was to create wearable objects that illustrated that recycling can be a beautiful thing.

Bryan Petersen

Bryan Petersen

Auto-American

This badge is depicting the struggle I find of not supporting our government’s politics, yet also being dependent on the resources which create the politics.

Suzanne Pugh

Suzanne Pugh

Aluminaut

This group of work is based on instruments of warfare; submarines, torpedoes, bombs, and rockets. I am exploring a fascination with weapons in an attempt to understand a perspective that contrarily is and is not my own. Aluminaut is the name of the first all aluminum submarine.

Kerianne Quick

Kerianne Quick

La Leche, La Carne, La Luz: Maid, Mother, and Crone

Rings commemorating the three stages of a woman’s life and the astrological known as the Return of Saturn.

Managing Environmental Effects of Metal Mining: Interview with Mark Logsdon

By Page on March 31, 2008 at 4:55 pm

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Photograph by David Maisel Mining Project 12 (Miami Arizona)

Anna & I recently attended a lecture at UPenn in which Mark Logsdon the President and Principal Geochemist at Geochimica spoke about his research in hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical studies of acid mine drainage, planning mine closures, water-quality site investigations, and geochemical modeling. The lecture focused on water-quality issues and their management, specifically for metals mines, using examples from Mark’s recent experience in North and South America, Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Laos. We had the opportunity to ask Mark some questions about his experiences and his research of a new tailing remediation system. Below are our questions and Marks answers, offering us some insight into the nuances of the metal mining industry.

*How long is the average gold/silver mine operational?

Gold and silver mines, that is mines that are exclusively for precious metals, tend to be quite small, and therefore short-lived. Most silver and gold mines in Nevada that have been developed in the last 20 years will have life of span of 10-15 years. There are a few exceptions, such as the big open-pit mines at Elko (Barrick Goldstrike, for example), that will probably be 20-25 years. Very rare exceptions, such as the Homestake Mine in Leed, SD exist, but they tend to be a very different kind of gold deposit – deep vein systems in metamorphic rocks, that are extremely rare.

* What happens to the mine site after it is no longer functional?

The closure plan, pretty much everywhere in the world now, will have three major components. Firstly, a physical restructuring so that all slopes are safe and stable and surfaces can be revegetated. Secondly, a program for long-term management of water quality. This may have to include long-term, even “perpetual” water treatment, though what this actually means is still pretty murky. Thirdly, the company has to settle up with its employees and work out some sort of staged withdrawal that allows a socio-economic transition for the nearby towns that have grown to depend on it commercially. This also is a new feature (say the last 10 years).

*How do you ensure that sufficient funds are set aside for clean up & maintenance when maintenance is seemingly never-ending?

Mines operate under a set of permits, and one or more of those permits (usually a “permit to Mine” from the state) will specify (a) the general terms of closure (see last Q) and (b) require the submission and approval of a closure plan, usually 5-10 years before the operation closes. The closure plan has to have costs associated with it, and the terms of the Permit to Mine require the miner to obtain a bond (from a reliable source) that covers all of those costs. The money going into the bond payments earns interest, and so it is a perpetually funded source. (Of course, assuming that the banking system survives.)

*When you spoke at Penn, you mentioned that in most cases, enough money is available for clean up; the real issue is who will monitor the clean up. Couldn’t the funds ensure that there was an infrastructure to continually monitor the clean up? Does oversight (governmental or otherwise) become the issue?

The funds ensure that there is money available to pay someone. The problem is to determine who that someone would be. Generally the fund includes money for regulatory oversight of the site, but it does not assume that the regulators will do the work. In fact, neither regulators nor companies think this is a good idea. So, there has to be some agreement on how the work will actually be done. The best (imo) approach is to establish a local company, as part of the socio-economic closure plan, far enough in advance that they can be trained to do the work. This leaves at least some residual economic benefit (through direct payments and multipliers) for the home team.

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Photograph by David Maisel Mining Project 6 (Ray Arizona)

*Does a third-party usually project the cost required, and the amount dedicated by the mining companies for clean-up efforts? How much money is generally invested in clean up?

This varies by jurisdiction. In Canada it is always an independent estimate, on which the company may comment. In US and Australia, it is almost always a canopy plan, on which they comment (and ultimately must approve). Mine closures today might run from a few tens of million dollars to well over a billion, depending on the size, longevity, and nature of the problems. A 10-year silver mining project in Nevada, if they run well, may be able to get out for $10-20 M. Costs estimates for the mining complexes at Butte MT or the Coeur d’Alene District in Idaho run into the billions of dollars.

*If the 1872 law is changed and U.S. mines begin paying royalties to the government, where do you think this money will/should be directed?

This is one of the key stumbling blocks. The Government generally would like the funds to be designated for General Use, either actually to the General Fund or at least to the general budgets of the parent Departments (which would be either Interior (for BLM and parks) or Agriculture (for Forest Service). The Companies would like to see the royalties targeted in ways that are closely tied to mining (e.g., USGS; funding for mining research, support for overseas mining on development basis…). Probably a portion will go to the equivalent of Superfund, to pay for orphan-mine cleanups. Given the dire condition of the budget, I’d say General Fund wins.

*In the US are there any systems in place that will pay back communities that have been negatively affected by mining (especially in sites where the mining has occurred on public or indigenous lands)?

There have been quite a number of mining Superfund sites – large portions of SW MO, SE KS, and NE OK (the: tri-State District); Leadville, CO; the Coeur d’Alene drainage; Butte, MT; old mines in and around several national parks; most of the old uranium mine son Navajo land. These remedial projects, some of which will continue for decades at least, provide local jobs in construction and other support services. Do they “pay back” the communities? Hard to say, and easy to argue about. In many cases the communities (Leadville, Butte and Leed are very good examples) are there only because there was mining to begin with, and pretty much all they have came form the mine. It’s not just negative.

*What sort of regulations exist in the US for mines to monitor the air pollution produced during the smelting process?

All smelters are and have been since it was passed in 1976 controlled by the Clean Air Act. The permitting and monitoring requirements are very extensive.

* Does the lining in the tailing ponds wear over-time? If so, how often is the lining in the tailing ponds changed?

Very few tailing ponds are lined; except for uranium tailings and cyanide leach systems. The longevity of the liners for these systems is not very well understood. Usually they will have multiple liners, at least one of which is compacted clay that presumably never “wears out.” The synthetic liners are designed to last 100 years, but there is no special reason to think they will fail at that point – just no engineering basis to predict longevity beyond that. In 100 years, tailings should all be fully drained. Therefore, with a cover that limits infiltration (and can be replaced) a 100-year lifetime for liners should protect water resources. No one changes liners – there is no practicable way to do it.

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Photograph by David Maisel Mining Project 10 (Butte Montana)

*What happens to all the waste rock? Is that too deposited into tailing ponds or re-integrated into the mountain?

In general, it remains in big piles on the sides of the mine – often in old valleys, where it has to be contoured at closure to prevent catastrophic landslides. There it stays, sort of incorporated back into the mountain, but as loose rock, nor bedrock. Sometimes, especially if there are multiple pits, it may be possible to backfill part of the waste rock into pits, but in a single pit, such as Bingham Canyon that I talked about, that is not possible, because they are still mining in that pit.

*Could you explain again how the tailing remediation system that you designed in Bingham County actually works?

The contaminated water is low-pH (acidic) and contains dissolved metals. We pump that contaminate water out of the plume and inject it into the tailing line. The tailing flowing down the line contains calcite (CaCO3) and some other minerals that are soluble at low pH. So the acidity of the water reacts with the acid-neutralizing minerals of the tailing. By properly balancing the amount of contaminated water and tailing, we can neutralize all the low-pH water. As the pH of the neutralized solutions rises, metals become insoluble and precipitate out. When the metals precipitate, they become solids, just like the 150,000 tons per day of solids we already are sending as tailing, and all that mass stays in the tailing impoundment.

Coral, it’s not just a wallflower……..

By Page on March 14, 2008 at 7:38 pm

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There is no doubt that coral’s color and shape is amazing. Coral can stand-alone as a classic cameo, an organically strung necklace, a chandelier, a candleholder, and the list could continue. However, our use of coral for fanciful objects does indeed have its seedy side. Coral plays a vital role in one of the world’s most valuable and complex ecosystems and, without coral our oceans will be in crisis. Over-fishing, climate change, oil and gas exploration, pollution, invasive species, and over-harvesting for jewelry and home décor are threatening coral’s survival. As consumers we can help protect coral by boycotting the use of coral in accessories and home décor. This is probably an easier challenge than trying to stop climate change. SeaWeb, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, recently launched the Too Precious to Wear Program to raise awareness of the severe threats to coral. Below is information from Sea Web about why coral is much more than a material for decorative objects & some fashion-forward coral alternatives from my own google image search adventures.

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brillant red lego ring!

* Coral reefs support more than 25 percent of all known marine fish species. As one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet, coral reefs are home to more than 4,000 different species of fish, and almost 5,000 species of corals, in addition to thousands of other plants and animals.

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lgue by Erwan Bouroullec,are individual plastic elements that can be joined to create personalized interior design elements, from screens to room dividers.

*Coral reefs protect coastal communities from natural disasters. A study of the effects of the 2004 tsunami in Asia showed that the presence of healthy coral could have reduced the tsunami’s reach by 50 percent. In parts of Sri Lanka with a history of heavy coral mining, the tsunami had higher waves, reached further inland, and resulted in more severe damage. Nearby areas with healthy reefs showed significantly reduced damage.

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High impact red lacquered aluminum candleholder by Michael Aram

*Researchers estimate that the prospect of finding a new drug in the sea, especially among coral reef species, may be 300 to 400 times more likely than isolating one from a terrestrial ecosystem. The most famous pharmaceutical using chemicals from corals is AZT, a compound used to treat HIV infections. Since 1983, 170 patents were filed for new compounds from coral reef sources.

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Fair Trade, brilliant red choclo seeds from Colombia on an eco-friendly interior coil made of recycled Colombian pesos. www.lucinajewelry.com

*Scientists estimate that coral reefs provide an economic benefit of $375 billion each year to millions of people around the world. In 2003, WWF calculated that corals provide a global total of US$30 billion net economic benefits from fisheries, tourism, coastal protection, and biodiversity. Studies show that on average countries with coral reef industries derive more than half their gross national product from them.

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A stitched cameo, need we say more..

Building a Green Economy with Van Jones

By Anna on March 4, 2008 at 11:45 am

Gotta love Bono.

(Gotta love Bono!)

On February 21st, Page & I heard Van Jones speak to an enthusiastic crowd at the Academy of Natural Sciences as the keynote speaker at the February 2008 Urban Sustainability Forum organized by Philly’s Sustainable Business Network. Although it doesn’t relate directly to jewelry, I think the ideas Mr. Jones expressed are relevant to any business trying to create social, environmental, and economic value.

Van Jones’ message is simple and powerful: now is the time to “build a green economy that is strong enough to lift people out of poverty.” His vision is a social uplift strategy that includes green jobs, not jails –a single solution to the two biggest crises we face in this country: social inequality and environmental destruction.

There is a limit, he said, to a green movement focused only on green goods and consumer choices available to those who can afford to buy green products. Investing in solar, bio-diesel, organic agriculture, and high-performance buildings creates green collar jobs and is an investment in the communities that lost so many jobs when manufacturing left the U.S.

Mr. Jones’ interest in green collar jobs grew out of his work at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which he founded in 1996 with Diana Frappier. Their Books Not Bars campaign helped to reduce California’s youth prison population by over 30%.

These efforts are gaining traction, as the Green Jobs Act of 2007 was just signed into law, providing $125 million in funding to train 35,000 people in green collar jobs like solar panel installation.

You can watch a video of the entire event here

Or read some of Van Jones’ work at www.vanjones.net

Book Report: The Ethical Jewelry Handbook

By Page on February 23, 2008 at 12:24 pm

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Marc Choyt, President of Reflective Images, Inc. & writer of the jewelry blog www.fairjewelry.org, recently released “The Ethical Jewelry Handbook,” a resource guide for the jewelry sector wishing to adopt exceptional standards and radical transparency: The Fair, Responsible, Ecological (FRE) System. We are very thankful to Marc for sharing his resources and inviting others to build upon his work.

One of the pertinent issues discussed in the Handbook is the confusion over the definition of fair trade/ ethical jewelry.  For example, when you google “fair trade jewelry,” sites pop up featuring everything from handmade artisan jewelry to socially responsible diamond engagement rings. It’s unclear to consumers and jewelers alike what these labels mean or if the same standards apply to all the divergent sectors of the industry. Truth be told, no consistent certification systems currently are in place.  As we’ve discussed in earlier blog entries, the process to develop certifications will take time and negotiations amongst the many factions of the industry.

We appreciate Marc’s call for radical transparency. He writes, “Though millions of websites reference ‘fair trade jewelry,’ the designation is, at this point, too ambiguous for all but a few main stream jewelry manufacturers to use. The consumer interested in ethically sourced jewelry needs to look for detailed information as to sourcing, labor and environmental practices. At present, transparency is often more valuable to the consumer than any designation.”

Marc then walks you through his own rating system, FRE:

The FRE Rating System addresses this current lack of standards with a format for giving your customers detailed insight into your supply chain, from the mine to the showroom, for all components of every finished piece of jewelry your company sells. FRE empowers your customers to make decisions based on a product’s: F=Fair labor; R=Social Responsibility and E=Ecological Impact.

Beyond the discussion of transparency and certification systems, the Handbook provides tips for jewelers on responsible practice, as well as entries from Marc’s blog describing some of the developments and issues in the jewelry industry.

FRE is open source—so anyone can use it for free. If you would like a copy, email me at page@rust-belt.org

Please Note: You may not collect any royalties from FRE.  Marc Choyt is credited as the originator of the system. See www.fairtradejewelry.org for more information.

The Makeover!

By Page on January 26, 2008 at 8:02 pm

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This fall Anna & I participated in the Radical Jewelry Makeover at Millersville University. The Radical Jewelry Makeover called for donations of old jewelry that, after days of sorting, disassembly, & melt-down, would be transformed into new works.

The Makeover is a workshop that addresses the importance of awareness -in the industry and among consumers -of the materials traditionally used in jewelry design. Christina Miller, founder and host of the event, encouraged participants to use unlikely materials (like plastic animals) in innovative ways. Students from Millersville University, Franklin & Marshall College, and Virginia Commonwealth University worked with donations to make new pieces for a gallery show. Proceeds benefited Ethical Metalsmiths and the Millersville University Jewelry and Metal Arts Guild. RJM is an awesome way to back up discussions of metal mining’s impact with hands-on experience using materials from an alternate source.

I was also impressed to see all the intense and amazing and hideous jewelry that people have and are willing to donate. It was a pretty incredible means to rediscover the forgotten jewelry trends of the mid-90s—like the below sterling silver ear cuff ‘climbing man’ design. Now really, how did the ‘climbing man’ become a national trend?
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Newe Sogobia -Western Shoshone Homelands

By Anna on December 26, 2007 at 5:33 pm

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The efforts of the Western Shoshone to protect their native lands –which, according to Earthworks/Oxfam, account for nearly 10% of the world’s gold production, or 64% of U.S. production –is another ongoing mining struggle here in the U.S. The Western Shoshone ancestral territory includes some 60 million acres in southern Idaho, eastern Nevada, and the Mojave Desert of California.

The conflict began when the Western Shoshone people signed the Ruby Valley (NV) Treaty of Peace and Friendship with the U.S. government in 1863, a time when the federal government was in need of California gold to fund the Civil War. The Ruby Valley Treaty gave the U.S. right-of-way through Shoshone territory for stage lines and railroads, and allowed settlers to mine, ranch, cut timber, and extract other natural resources from Shoshone lands. The treaty also recognized the Western Shoshone people as the landowner, and entitled them to royalties for extractive activities. No royalties have ever been paid to the Shoshone people.

The Shoshone have tried for decades to convince the federal government to honor the treaty and pay the royalties due to them. In 1979, the U.S. government attempted to legislate a settlement that would void the treaty and award the Shoshone a one-time $26 million payment –the equivalent of about 15 cents an acre –for relinquishing the title to their land. The Shoshone did not accept the settlement, however, the U.S. government accepted the payment on their behalf. Today, the payment sits untouched in a trust. (1)

The Ruby Valley Treaty allows for mining on the scale employed in 1863, but in the current mining realities prospectors have been supplanted by large-scale corporate mining. (2)

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have urged the Canadian and U.S. governments to take action against these human rights violations against the Western Shoshone people. But the U.S. government continues to move forward with legislation for additional mining and new forms of extraction on these traditional lands. The Shoshone filed suit again in September 2003, demanding payment of the royalties owed under The Ruby Valley Treaty.

For more information, or to find out how you can help, visit:
www.wsdp.org

1) See http://www.nativeweb.org/pages/legal/shoshone/

2) See http://www.nodirtygold.org/western_shoshone_nation_usa.cfm

The Ever-challenging Quest for Recycled Chain

By Page on December 10, 2007 at 7:35 pm

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As of late, we’ve been getting a lot of emails from jewelers asking what they can do to help support the development of a more responsible jewelry industry.

One of the biggest steps that you can take as a jeweler (other than being aware of the issues) simply involves talking to your suppliers about your concerns. Ask them where they get their metals & gems. Tell your suppliers that you are interested in buying recycled metals and responsibly sourced materials.

One initiative Anna & I are working on is organizing jewelers to convince refineries of the demand for recycled gold & silver chain. Because chain is manufactured in bulk, we will need many jewelers to join forces in order for the industry begin producing recycled chain. So if you would be interested in using recycled chain, email me your silver/ gold chain needs (style, size, metal, quantity) at page@rust-belt.org. Until then the quest for quality vintage chain continues.

Proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay Alaska: Interview with filmmaker Travis Rummel from Felt Soul Media

By Page on November 23, 2007 at 7:39 pm

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Bristol Bay sockeye salmon…. Photo by Ben Knight

Northern Dynasty Mines proposes to build North America’s largest open-pit gold and copper mine at the headwaters of two of the most valued river drainages in Alaska, the Mulchatna/Nushagak River drainage and the Newhalen/Kvichak drainage. The proposed Pebble Mine is situated in Bristol Bay Alaska, an area known for its pristine watersheds and sockeye salmon runs. Filmmakers Travis Rummel & Ben Knight from Felt Soul Media spent the summer in Bristol Bay shooting their latest project Red Gold. Beyond documenting the incredible beauty of Bristol Bay, Red Gold poses the question:

which is a more valuable resource: the renewable and sustainable runs of salmon that have enriched fisherman (sport, commercial, and subsistence) or the 90 million ounces of gold that lie in the headwaters of the region.

Below is an interview with Travis about Red Gold and what you can do if you want to be more involved in the issues.

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The Veins of Bristol Bay…Photo by Ben Knight

Why did you choose to make a film about Pebble Mine?

I had never witnessed a mass migration before. This seemed like an amazing opportunity to document a mass migration that is still incredibly healthy and bountiful before the possibility of it being detrimentally impacted through industrialization.

Bristol Bay, AK is still extremely pristine, remaining roadless with more bears than people. The sockeye salmon returns are legendary even for Alaska and contribute to about 25% of the global harvest of wild salmon. This year about 29 million fish were harvested. The fishery is sustainable and is managed for 50% escapement rates to make sure there will be more fish for the future.

The Pebble Mine threatens this sustainable resource through a proposed copper/gold/molybdenum mine at the headwaters of the regions two most productive rivers – the Nushagak and the Kvichak rivers. It is also a mere 19 miles from Alaska’s largest lake – Lake Iliamna which is home to one of the only populations of fresh waters seals in the world. The reserve could be the largest copper sulfite deposit ever discovered and is currently estimated to be worth over 300 billion dollars.

The mine will most likely be a combination of open pit style mine and under ground mine. The development of the mine would mean a 100 mile road being built and influx of 2000 workers for construction to be followed by roughly1000 workers to operate the mine. The entire population of Bristol Bay is just 8000.

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Photo by Ben Knight

If Pebble Mine happens, what are the long-term effects to the environment & the fishing community?

Aside from the influx of workers from out of the area, open pit mining is notorious for contaminating watersheds. This is a wetlands with very complex hydrology. The mine site could not be in a worse location as it straddles two watersheds, each huge producers of all 5 species of pacific salmon. The fishery supports commercial, sport (fly fishing, spin fishing) and subsistence fishing (for the last 6000+ years). The commercial fishery is based on water purity and is marketed as coming from the pristine waters of Alaska. If there ever was a leak or spill at Pebble Mine, it could destroy the reputation of the entire state/region. For example, the Valdez oil spill drastically affected the Bristol Bay’s fishery’s market despite it being over 1000 mile from the actual fishery. The sport fishery is huge in the area and supports over a hundred lodges where people spend upwards of $8000 a week to fish for salmon and trout. The subsistence link is perhaps the most crucial as many yupik, and athabasacans (two of Alaska’s Native groups) still heavily rely on the harvesting of salmon for the majority of their annual protein as well as it remaining one of their last intact cultural pillars.

Is just the fishing industry lucrative enough to sustain the local economy?

Traditionally, the fishery has supported the people of Bristol Bay and the seasonal fishermen from beyond. In the 1990’s farmed salmon drove the price of wild salmon to extremely low prices. The market has slowly recovered as people have begun to recognize the inherent differences between wild and farmed fish. The disparity here is that the mine site is removed from the actual commercial fishery by about 60 miles. The argument is that the locals of Lake Iliamna have been forced out of the fishery through the permit process and do not directly benefit from the commercial fishery as they could from the mine. The only real argument for the mine going forward is job creation. This is a bit absurd as the jobs to locals will be minimal as many lack any formal training in mining/construction and with an immediate population of 200 people living in Iliamna the number that would actually benefit is very low. Most likely, Pebble Mine would not employ more than a couple of hundred locals during the construction phase and then that number would probably become lower once the mine is actually operational. Commercial fishing employs around 8,000 people seasonally with a majority being directly from the area.

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Nancy Delkiette hangs her fish. Photo by Lauren Oakes.

Can the mine be constructed in a way that will not be so destructive to the community & the environment?

Open pit mining is the largest polluter in the US according the EPA. Northern Dynasty is still coming up with the construction plans for the site, so it is not really known how the minerals will be extracted. Most likely it will be both an open pit and hard rock mine. The problem with the open pit and hard rock is containing the tailings and waste rock for perpetuity. Mining doesn’t have the best record for this.

Has there been any money set aside for clean-up plans?

Yes, they have to post a bond to maintain the permit that is reviewed every 5 years. Traditionally though this has not been sufficient for a complete closure and restoration. It is difficult to plan for perpetuity as well.

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Alaskan Natives show their support of the anti-Pebble Mine movement at the Dillingham rally. Photo by Ben Knight

When making the film what was the reaction from the community?

The Pebble Mine is a very decisive issue in the communities of Bristol Bay. Our experience was that the vast majority of those we encountered were actively opposed to the mine. The people in support were generally only in support of the mine going through if it could be guaranteed that there would not be any negative environmental impacts.

jackfishon-11.jpgPhoto by Travis Rummel

If people want to become involved in the issue-what can they do?
www.tu.org/bristolbay
www.renewableresourcescoalition.org

The scary thing is that is essentially a state of Alaska issue. The site is wholly on state land and then it will come down to the state legislation and governor deciding what is more important – the one time gain from the mine or the sustainable fishery.

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