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  1. Wealth
November 2, 2010

Jewellers oppose new gold mine

By Spear's

LONDON, 2 November — Fifty jewellers, with more than £3.5 billion ($5.75 billion) in sales, say they won’t use gold from Anglo American PLC’s proposed Pebble Mine, which threatens the world’s most important fishing grounds for wild sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

LONDON, 2 November — Fifty jewellers, with more than £3.5 billion ($5.75 billion) in sales, say they won’t use gold from Anglo American PLC’s proposed Pebble Mine, which threatens the world’s most important fishing grounds for wild sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

The proposed open-pit mine would be the largest in North America and generate an estimated 10 billion tonnes of mine waste, much of it toxic and held on the site forever. If it goes ahead, the mine would destroy salmon spawning habitat in a designated Fishery Reserve, and jeopardize the commercial fishing industry and the livelihoods of the Alaska Native communities in the region. With gold selling at record highs of over $1,300 an ounce, permits applications are expected next year.

Fraser Hart, a leading UK independent jewellery retailer; and Boucheron, a supplier of jewels to the British royal family; along with John Hardy and Ingle & Rhode are the latest signatories to the pledge to not buy gold from Pebble Mine. They join Tiffany & Co, Goldsmiths, Mappin and Webb, Beaverbrooks and other leading retailers and designers representing thousands of stores in the UK and worldwide opposed to the project.

“In some areas, mining of precious metals presents too great a risk to communities and the environment. Bristol Bay is such an area,” said Noel Coyle, CEO of Fraser Hart. “We support protection of Bristol Bay from large-scale mining, and will not source gold that comes at the expense of the communities and salmon fisheries of Bristol Bay.”

“There are some special places where mining clearly does not represent the best long-term use of resources,” said Michael Kowalski, CEO of Tiffany & Co. “In Bristol Bay, we believe the extraordinary salmon fishery clearly provides the best opportunity to benefit Southwestern Alaskan communities in a sustainable way. For Tiffany & Co., – and we believe for many of our fellow retail jewelers – this means we must look to other places to responsibly source our gold.”

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery supplies a third of the world’s commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon. It is the lifeblood of many Alaska Native communities and is critical to the state’s economy, generating an average of $400 million a year and over 5,500 jobs. The UK is the largest consumer of tinned sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, with $43 million worth of salmon exported to the UK last year.

“Salmon is life,” said Bobby Andrew, a subsistence fisherman and spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of our Land), an association of nine Alaska Native village corporations in Bristol Bay. “It has sustained our economy and our people for generations. The support from jewellers is important to us because jewellery demand represents 80% of the global mine production of gold.”

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The proposed Pebble Mine, roughly 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, is a project of London-based Anglo American (LSE: AAL), one of the world’s largest mining companies, and Northern Dynasty Minerals of Canada. The two companies now hold 163 square miles of mining claims. The copper and gold mine would require construction of huge dams to hold back mountains of toxic mine waste, a deepwater port, pipelines, an 86-mile road, a power plant, and hundreds of miles of power lines.

“When we met last year with Anglo American, (CEO) Cynthia Carroll said they won’t go where they aren’t wanted,” said Everett Thompson, a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman. “Eighty percent of folks in Bristol Bay don’t want the mine. And jewellers don’t want the gold. So why is Anglo American still pushing for the mine?”

On Thursday, 4 November, the Alaskan delegation will meet with John MacKenzie, CEO of Anglo American’s Copper Division, which oversees the Pebble Mine project. The company has been running full-page advertisements in The Guardian and The Economist, touting its commitment to human rights and “zero harm.”

“This is a milestone. Fifty jewellers refusing gold from a specific place or mine — it’s a precedent for jewellers,” said Bonnie Gestring, of EARTHWORKS, an international mining reform organization.

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