Monday, November 5, 2007

Tiffany & Co. Jewelry chairman and chief executive leads the way against Montana gold mine

NO DIRTY GOLD: Tiffany & Co. leads the way with Washington Post advertisement campaign against Montana gold mine.

Dirty gold? Jewelers urge miners to clean up


SPOKANE, Wash. - Those gleaming necklaces, rings and watches in the jewelry case may cost a lot more than you think, environmentalists say.

In a new public relations campaign, environmentalists are scolding jewelers for the damage caused by mining for gold, silver and other precious metals, and are putting pressure on jewelry retailers to reject minerals from big polluters.

One gold ring, conservationists say, generates 20 tons of mine waste. This year, they passed out Valentine’s Day cards reading, “Don’t tarnish your love with dirty gold” in front of jewelry stores in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

The campaign caught the attention of Tiffany Co., which took out a recent ad in The Washington Post that said a proposed mine under the Cabinet Mountains wilderness of Montana is a poor way to fill its jewelry cabinets on Fifth Avenue.

“Given the impact of mining for gold, silver and platinum, they are a company who cared about how they were viewed and what their customers think,” said Steve D’Esposito, president of Earthworks, the environmental group leading the campaign.

The ad, signed by Tiffany chairman and chief executive Michael Kowalski, surprised leaders in the mining industry.

“I was stunned that a person of Mr. Kowalski’s stature and obvious business acumen would write a letter like that,” said Laura Skaer, head of the Northwest Mining Association in Spokane.

Jewelers push for 'Responsible Mining'

The jewelry industry has already started the process of guaranteeing that its raw materials came only from socially and environmentally friendly mining companies, according to Jewelers of America, an industry group.

For several years, the group has been pushing a policy of supporting “responsible mining of minerals and metals,” said Fred Michmershuizen, director of marketing for the New York-based group.

Jewelers of America played a leading role in reducing the sale of so-called blood diamonds that help fund wars in Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo and Liberia. Last year, 45 countries signed on to an agreement requiring every diamond to be accompanied by a certificate of origin.


Now Earthworks and a similar group, Oxfam America, have turned their sights on what they call the dirtiest industry in the United States — gold mining.

The U.S. gold jewelry market is worth about $16 billion annually, but mining is the top toxic polluter in the United States, responsible for 96 percent of arsenic emissions and 76 percent of lead emissions, according to a report the groups released in February.


Critics also should consider that the alternative to mining for precious metals in the United States is mining in undeveloped countries that lack environmental protections, Rey said. He added: “I don’t think that’s what Tiffany wants.”

Here is the full article.