The Guardian: ‘Jewelry Manufacturers and Retailers Confronting Water Issues’

Gold mining can cause huge environmental damage. Photo Courtesy: Str/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian article ‘Jewelry Manufacturers and Retailers Confronting Water Issues’ by Leon Kaye deals with the environmental effects the jewelry industry has water because of the mining of precious metals. The sale of precious metals have not wavered with the current economic crisis, especially that of gold. Gold is a metal which requires an enormous amount of water in order to extract it from the earth and is an increasingly hot commodity. Kaye makes the point that the environmental effects of mining will only exacerbate as the demand for gold continues to elevate.

The article further focuses on whether the jewelry industry is doing enough to prevent land and water contamination due to precious metal mining. Critics say that even the efforts of the Responsible Jewelry Council are not enough. According to Marc Choyt of the Fair Jewelry Action (FJA), companies are applauded for ethical sourcing even though their operations are contaminating water. Many companies also do not have contingency plans in case toxins leak into the local groundwater supply.

Before reading this article, I already had some knowledge that mining operations can cause water contamination. But I did not know the extent of this issue in connection with the jewelry industry. It makes sense since fine jewelry is most commonly made from gold and other precious metals. The article brings up a report done which evaluates ten large European jewelry companies in regards to environmental stewardship. Out of ten, only Boucheron and Cartier received “active” and “significantly active” scores for their safe environmental practices. It mentions Tiffany & Co. as a leader more companies should follow. They are not perfect in the sourcing of their raw materials, but Tiffany does have a respected mine-to-market programme that provides its customers with transparency and traces the company’s merchandise as it makes it way through the supply chain.

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