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Retailers Pledge to Clean Up Gold
Jewelry Scene

Advocates of more environmentally and socially responsible gold mining practices used both the carrot and the stick this Valentine's Day, running an ad in The New York Times praising eight retailers who agreed to source more responsibly produced gold and panning eight companies who did not respond to the campaign's pledge request.

The "No Dirty Gold" campaign, supported by Oxfam and Earthworks, has been running for two years. Large retailers are becoming familiar with the tactics—like fax spamming and demonstrations outside stores—that the campaign uses to bring the issue to the attention of the media and consumers. More than 30,000 consumers have signed the campaign's petition urging mining corporations to produce gold more responsibly.

The retailers who pledged to source clean gold are Zale Corp., the Signet Group (the parent firm of Sterling and Kay Jewelers), Tiffany & Co., Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, Cartier, Piaget, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Those who did not were Rolex, JC Penney, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer Jewelers, Whitehall Jewelers, Jostens, QVC, and Sears/Kmart.

"Because jewelry retailers buy the majority of gold produced worldwide, they have the power to help clean up the mining industry," says Payal Sampat, co-director of the No Dirty Gold campaign and international campaign director for Earthworks.

The New York Times ad (available at features a heart-shaped locket with images depicting the environmental and human toll of gold mining, and the headline, "There's nothing romantic about a toxic gold mine." The ad then names both the retailers who agreed in principle to the campaign's demands and the "laggards" who had not yet done so.

The campaign asked the companies to endorse human rights and environmental and social justice principles that call for responsible practices in producing gold and precious metals. These include: respect for basic human rights outlined in international conventions and law; free, prior, and informed consent from affected communities; respect for workers' rights and labor standards; protecting parks and natural reserves from mining; and protecting oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams from mining wastes.