Swiss gold refiner Metalor to stop sourcing from artisanal mines citing increased cost of ensuring compliance with human rights

Swiss gold refinery Metalor has announced it will no longer deal with artisanal mining operations citing increasing costs of ensuring that gold from these mines is produced in compliance with human rights and environmental standards. Experts however have raised concerns that boycotting artisanal mining is not the answer because it strips communities of their livelihood. More information is available below.

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18 June 2019

Boycotting artisanal gold miners is not the answer

Author: Swissinfo

It is true that conditions in many artisanal mines and their surrounding communities can be appalling and dangerous...

But – and it’s a big but – if other refineries follow suit rather than engaging with the issues and trying to solve them, it will be catastrophic for the 100 million people worldwide who rely on artisanal mining for their livelihoods.

About 80% of miners work in small-scale mines, but generate only 20% of [...] newly mined gold...

Firstly, it is simply not economically possible to disregard 20% of the world’s gold production. If responsible refineries refuse artisanal gold, it will instead end up in the cauldrons of poorly regulated refineries with zero care for compliance in the United Arab Emirates or India.

Secondly, it is a basic factual mistake to believe that gold from large-scale industrial mines is any cleaner than artisanal gold...

Most importantly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its Alignment Assessment 2018 deplores the “risk-averse approach to sourcing” that Metalor has been panicked into taking, and this form of “internal embargo” on artisanal mining...

So, what should Metalor and other responsible gold refineries with the collective power to change the industry do?

First, acknowledge the scale of the problems and show willingness to engage – with the problems and with others trying to solve them.

Second, pinpoint the obvious no-go areas. Gold coming from conflict areas (like Sudan) or mined by children (child miners are common in many countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Côte d’Ivoire), for example.

And third, work together with other refineries to jointly tackle the issues of artisanal mining and help raise standards for those 100 million impoverished people who rely on it.

Metalor cites “resources to secure compliance” as a reason for its blanket ban on artisanally mined gold. But the cost of proper, transparent audits tracing back through the entire gold supply chain is mere pocket money for a refinery of this size – and if the refineries engage in collective action, it’s a matter of gold dust. 

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18 June 2019

Metalor cuts ties with small mines over sustainable gold

Author: Swissinfo

Swiss gold refinery Metalor Technologies has announced it will no longer deal with artisanal mining operations. The company cites the increasing cost of ensuring that gold is being produced by small mines in compliance with human rights and environmental standards...

The company has refuted many of the charges being levelled at it by human rights groups...

Pressure groups has complained that Metalor’s due diligence was failing to spot back doors through which “dirty gold” was allegedly reaching the refinery.

“The increasing complexity of the supply chain in this sector makes it increasingly difficult for Metalor to continue its commercial relations with artisanal mining operations,” said Metalor CEO, Antoine de Montmollin, in a statement.

“Metalor regrets this well-considered decision, but we will not compromise on defending a more sustainable value chain in the gold sector.” 

Mark Pieth, a champion for greater accountability in the Swiss commodities sector, slammed the refinery’s decision. He believes that cutting ties with trouble spots in response to criticism is not the answer because it strips entire communities of their livelihood...

Pieth also points that sourcing gold exclusively from large-scale mining is no guarantee of a problem free supply chain. Large-scale mining has been associated with environmental pollution, as well as with the displacement and expropriation of indigenous communities.


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