Minding the Gold We Mine: Turning the Tide

Caelen BurandNews

Written by MFM founder and director, Toby Pomeroy (pictured right).

As a jewelry designer and goldsmith for more than 50 years, I’m thrilled that many jewelry companies, from independent makers to some of the industry’s most notable institutions are taking bold action to support the discovery and implementation of alternative processes so that 15~20 million gold miners will no longer need to use toxic mercury to survive.

We are at a watershed moment in the jewelry industry, an extraordinary, pivotal moment in time.

Never in history has such a spectrum of minor to major jewelry organizations proactively addressed such immense issues for which no clear solution yet exists.

In 2017 I founded the nonprofit Mercury Free Mining with a commitment to transform the agonizing reality that millions of artisanal and small-scale gold miners (ASGM) are dependent on daily mercury use just to survive. At the time, very few in the jewelry industry knew anything about the worldwide pollution (12,000 pounds per day) arising from ASGM’s mercury use.

Today, four years later, jewelers are almost universally aware of the problem and are taking heartening, unprecedented actions to address this tragedy. But our steps must only be the beginning of a coming landslide. We are immersed in a sea of accelerating change and technological advances, are coming at us faster than we can understand. We cannot afford to stand still.

Recently, the world’s financial markets shifted like never before, demonstrating the public’s support for companies that are acting on their sustainability agendas. The courts are also weighing in, setting new legal precedents for industries in matters of environmental and human rights.

Additionally, from the June 14, 2021, Kinsey Report: State of Fashion: Watches and Jewelry

“Traditionally seen as a risk-mitigation topic, leaders must now also embrace sustainability to win the trust of younger consumers and carve out a leadership position in a previously slow-to-act industry.”

Scientists, engineers, and innovators are solving problems daily that until the day before seemed forever intractable. The world is steadily, inexorably, marching toward a collective awareness that ultimately, if we as individuals or organizations are going to thrive, we must ensure that others and our natural world are also thriving.

Acting in harmony with nature is inevitable if we are to succeed, and it is becoming increasingly clear that for business and society to truly prosper, profits must arise from a commitment to the well-being of people and the planet.

In this pivotal moment, jewelers have a seam in which to acknowledge and shift the reality that millions of marginalized people who mine our gold are poisoning themselves and the rest of the planet with mercury. We can inspire our customers and the world by declaring our commitment to the well-being of millions of ASGM who currently have no scalable alternatives to using one of the most toxic substances on earth- mercury.

We can commit ourselves and end these environmental and human rights abuses in our gold supply chain.

Or we can do nothing and watch our industry wilt, like a dustbowl farm no longer loved and nurtured by careful tending to crop selection, planting, watering, and replenishing essential organic nutrients in the soil.

Right now, the choice is ours.