RESP Launches International Consultation on Sustainability of the Coloured Gems Industry

On 8 June 2015, the Responsible Ecosystems Sourcing Platform (RESP) launched an international consultation process that will assist in the identification of key sustainability-related priorities for the coloured gemstones industry.

This consultation is the first of its kind and will seek to contribute to the development of a sustainability framework for artisanal and small scale mining of coloured gemstones and provide initial elements to assess its potential implementation through an international standard.

The coloured gemstone industry has a global reach with mining operations in 47 countries across the world. The industry accounts for around USD 10 billion per year and unlike diamonds which are controlled by a few major mining companies, the coloured gemstone depends on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) for a staggering 80% of its total global output. For this reason, the industry is increasingly important for the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.

However, the industry contains a complex set of sustainability issues which are only beginning to be understood. In recent years a number of initiatives have begun trying to clarify the sustainability landscape of the coloured gemstones industry, but the lack of an agreed international sustainability framework has become a major challenge to finding common ground from where to begin a structured discussion.

Read the full announcement at the RESP website


Antwerp World Diamond Centre Saves 15% on Energy Bill

Public authorities at all levels are appealing to businesses and individuals to be more aware of their energy consumption in order to avoid any power shortages. In the context of the City of Antwerp’s project, “Energy for the heart of Antwerp”, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre is implementing several energy-saving measures. As a result of these measures, we will save 30,000 euro annually on our energy bill.

The City of Antwerp is promoting more sustainable work, and with CityLab2050 (Stadslab2050) has initiated a new pathway, together with several Antwerp companies and industries, whereby it will accelerate progress with regard to energy savings and a sustainable energy supply.

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre commissioned an energy audit from which it appeared that with better use of the existing installations, more than 15% savings could be achieved on the cost of cooling and heating. Together with the other users, these installations are responsible for 200,000 euro in electricity expenses annually. As a result of this initiative, the energy bill was reduced to 170,000 euro.

“We have made several adjustments in recent years, so that major investments were unnecessary,” says Ari Epstein. “By means of a number of simple interventions – such as a new scheme for cooling and heating, proper coordination of the new installations and automatically turning off the vending machines – we will already be much more energy efficient.”

Factor4, a company that specializes in supporting business that wish to make their building more energy efficient, conducted the energy audit and set up an action plan in consultation with the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. This action plan will run for a period of two years, enabling Factor4 to implement the measures and provide guarantees about the results achieved by means of an energy performance contract.

If the costs incurred are not recuperated by the savings measures, the AWDC will be refunded a percentage of the costs. On the other hand, both parties agree to share any profit that is made.


Responsible Gold Mining & Sustainable Development

Responsible gold mining & how can it aid sustainable development? – podcast

Sue George, The Guardian UK

Three key figures from the gold industry discuss the role of the Conflict-Free Gold Standard in ensuring responsible mining and explore whether it is achieving what it set out to do.

This Sustainable Business podcast on responsible mining looks at the implications of the Conflict-Free Gold Standard. Among the other issues it considers are the contribution of gold to development; the role of small-scale, or artisanal, miners; the role of legislation in ensuring gold is mined responsibly; the complementary roles of companies and governments; and the contributions of consumers, shareholders and investors.

On the podcast discussing the Standard and its role in responsible gold mining are Terry Heymann, director, Responsible Gold, at the World Gold Council; Ruth Crowell, deputy chief executive at the London Bullion Market Association and Sophia Pickles, campaigner at NGO Global Witness.

Gold is one of the world's most valuable and desirable commodities. Despite the recent slump in gold prices – after a long period of growth – it remains one of the most significant sources of revenue for many countries. Gold is also used in a wide range of applications from technology to health to currency; 60% of gold is turned into jewellery.



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Chile fines Barrick Gold $16m for Pascua-Lama mine

Comment From Occupy Your Water Rights:

Mining for gold takes a toll on the environment in many ways. While clean up efforts at abandoned mines remain a problem, the effects of gold mining on air, water and soil at active mine sites need to be monitored closely.
Air pollution is created in several ways. One is from the road traffic near the mines where heavy trucks carrying waste and ore generate large amounts of dust. Daily traffic is enough to cause severe air pollution in mining areas. The smelting process used to refine the ore releases lead into the air creating even more problems.
Water is polluted through a process called leaching where ore is removed from the waste using cyanide. Although the cyanide is supposed to be collected in contained reservoirs it is not difficult to imagine that unless strict controls are in place, the run-off finds its way into water systems in the mining area. To make matters worse, some mine owners intentionally dispose of waste into nearby water systems.
Gold mining leaves many toxins in the soil that create health hazards for humans and animals for years to come. Heavy metals and other toxins remain in the soil for many decades making soil pollution a major issue in mining areas.
While it is good news that authorities in Chile have fined Barrick Gold for environmental offences at the Pascua-Lama mine, the long-term damage is yet to be known.

Chile fines Barrick Gold $16m for Pascua-Lama mine

Chilean authorities have fined the world's largest gold mining company, Barrick Gold Corp, more than $16m for environmental offences.   

Construction at the Pascua-Lama mine, on the border with Argentina, has been suspended until a system to contain contaminated water is put in place. 

The news led to share trading in the Canadian-owned company being halted in New York and Toronto after a sell-off.But activists complained that the fine was only 0.1% of the total operation.

"The resolution is convenient to the offender, a derisive fine for a company such as Barrick Gold," Greenpeace said on a statement.
Despite criticism, the government said the fine was the highest possible under Chilean law.
'No environmental damage' 
The environmental authorities said the mining company committed four "serious" and one "very serious" offences.The latter was a commitment made by Barrick Gold to put in place water treatment systems to contain contaminated waste water and to prevent rainwater contamination.
The company itself reported its shortcomings to the environmental authorities, which led to an investigation.Barrick Gold Corp acknowledged the failures and promised to work on solutions.

The Beautiful Poisoned Children of China

By Donna Lisenby

As I walked through the gates of the primary school in Xiangyang City in Hubei Province with Middle Han Waterkeeper, Yun Jianli, I was greeted by six and seven-year-old voices raised in song. They clapped their hands in time to the rhythm of the songs, waved tinsel-studded pom poms and crayon-colored artwork. The songs and the pictures contained messages about the need for humans to do a much better job of taking care of the Earth by preventing pollution of our air and water.


As I watched these beautiful and talented children sing songs imploring the grown-up stewards of their future to bequeath them a livable planet, I was haunted by the devastating reality of the world they will inherit from us.


In the last four months, pollution levels in China have climbed to levels never before recorded in the history of our planet. More than 1.2 million Chinese per year are dying early due to pollution while birth defects soar. Education officials in the most polluted regions of China have moved beyond educational programs to try to change adult behavior that robs children of the possibility of a healthy life in their own country.


Affluent parents are buying expensive air filters to try to give their children some semblance of a normal life. Schools in the wealthier districts are also installing sophisticated air filtration equipment even as some parents recognize that it won’t be enough to protect their children, so they dream of leaving the country altogether.


For the vast majority of Chinese, who have no means of escaping the pollution, athletic fields covered with giant domes might at least allow kids to play soccer or just run and play tag without their lungs burning and filling with high concentrations of particulate matter that cause cancer.


As I journeyed across six provinces of China with Waterkeeper Alliance’s Asia Regional Coordinator Charles Depman earlier this year and met with our Waterkeepers in Hangzhou, Lanzhou, Hefei, Beijing, Dalian and Xiangyang City, we went to cancer villages, investigated pollution and interviewed people about increasing levels of death and disease. The people we talked to moved us deeply.


The basic human right to clean air and water is universal. In order to achieve it in China, a grassroots movement is emerging. It may surprise people outside of China to learn that a people-powered revolution is possible there. And while it isn’t as raucous and rowdy as some civil society shifts in other countries, there are inspiring Chinese success stories to use as a road map.

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Angelina Jolie Opens School in Afghanistan Funded By Her Jewelry Collection (2)

Angelina Jolie has reportedly said that the all-girls school she is building in Afghanistan has opened, funded by her eponymous jewelry collection.

The actress and philanthropist told E! News that the school located outside of Kabul educates from 200 to 300 students. It was funded by the Style of Jolie jewelry line—a collection of jewelry created by Jolie and Robert Procop, a gem expert, private jeweler and jewelry designer. She told E! that the new school will be one of many girls schools that will be built and funded through the proceeds from the jewelry collection.

The high jewelry pieces for the Style of Jolie collection are known for using statement gemstones cut in the shape of tablet, an exclusive feature. Procop told me in an interview published in January that Jolie wanted something with an historical message and spent a great deal of time studying how a tablet is held. Together they designed the shape.

All proceeds from the sales are used to build schools for girls in impoverished countries through the Education Partnerships for Children of Conflicts, co-founded by Jolie.

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EcoWatch: Most Popular Post of 2012

EcoWatch announced the Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2012. Coming in at number one: Stomach Contents of Seabirds Show that Marine Plastic Pollution is out of Control by the University of British Columbia. The research group performed necropsies on 67 beached northern fulmars and found that 92.5 percent had plastics—such as twine, Styrofoam and candy wrappers—in their stomachs. An average of 36.8 pieces per bird were found…


Photo caption: This photo of an albatross chicks was taken in September 2009 on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in this photograph was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged or altered in any way. This image depicts the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. Photo by Chris Jordan –


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Rainforest Alliance: The Benefits of Certification

How does Rainforest Alliance certification affect farmers' livelihoods, families, communities and environments? To answer these key questions, we commissioned the Committee on Sustainability Assessment to conduct research on cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire. The results were inspiring: certified cocoa farmers produced more cocoa per acre; earned a higher net income; implemented more soil and water conservation measures; and demonstrated an increased commitment to community engagement.

Read more here: utm_source=canopydecember2012&utm_medium=email&utm_content=buttonlink&utm_campaign=canopy 



Feature Article

A Tanzanite Experience

Written by Naomi Sarna

In March of 2012, I had the great good fortune to be invited by Hayley Henning, Executive Director of the Tanzanite Foundation to go to Tanzania, pick out gem tanzanite and carve it for the IU Awards International Competition in Hong Kong.  It was hoped that the carving would win a prize and then be sold, the proceeds to benefit the group of Maasai who live near the Richland Resources mine, Tanzanite One.  Deborah Yonick has previously written about the mine and the gorgeous trichroic mineral found there, the only place on earth where tanzanite is found.

The government of Tanzania forbids the export of rough tanzanite larger than 1 gram, and the competition stipulated that the gem carvings could not be larger than 80 grams.  The only way to obtain rough of a substantial size was to go to the mine and carve it there.  What a wonderful adventure, I thought.  While I was there, I would also be teaching a group of Maasai women to wire wrap lower grade tanzanite to sell in tourist shops.  These wonderful people are greatly impoverished, no electricity, no eyeglasses, very little fresh running water.  I assumed this would be an excellent project for them as they already are highly skilled in making beaded ornaments.  I took 35 various pliers, miles of wire and various findings.  When we met, they had no idea what pliers were or what one did with them but they quickly learned and they made beautiful jewelry which will soon be auctioned on at the Munich Specimen and Mineral Show, and Liquidation Channel in Texas, to their benefit.

Right away I was given a 200 gram natural, unheated crystal specimen.  I said that this was such a beauty that it would be a shame to carve it. However, it was the only piece of quality material available at that time and so I began to carve it.  Time was of the essence; I had to carve the material enough for it to qualify for export as an art object and I only had a few days to do the carving.

The circumstances under which I was carving would make any carver cringe.  I had brought my carving arbor and an AC-DC converter which worked sometimes, as the electricity was intermittent.  My table-top was the opened closet bottom of cabinets, filled with rubble from construction.  Because of the size of the shield, I did not bring my water shield and instead used a plastic 5 gallon water bottle which I cut and taped to accommodate my carving arbor and my hands. Interesting.

Light was another challenge.  Flashlights were offered but finally enough lamps were provided that I was able to work.

Tanzanite is found in graphite.  Miners come up coated in the black, slippery mineral.  The rough I was cutting had a large inclusion of graphite which I rapidly removed, creating a vertical groove in the piece.

The question arose: would I cut into the natural termination or leave it?  This rough was sceptered with a perfect trichroic crystal, fabulous blue on the A axis, blue-violet on the B axis.  I taped the crystal termination protect it and then carved away to see what developed.

It's easy to write about carving a piece when things go well - the piece carves itself, polishing becomes perfection.  However, there are times in the life of any carver when no matter what you do, go left or right, up or down, back or forward, when nothing you do is the right thing. This is a story about when everything went wrong.  I do not generally subscribe to the idea that gems hold magical properties, but this piece did not want to be carved and fought me every inch of the way!

There are very few, if any,  A grade tanzanite carvings, so reference to past experience did not exist.  No one seemed to know that the inclusions were long rectangular cells filled with mild sulphuric acid.  I had barely time to examine the material before I had to start carving it so I neglected to take into account the numerous cell inclusions, or their nasty nature.  I had to decide quickly if I was going to leave the openings or fill them with some epoxy filler.  I decided to leave them as expressions of the natural material.

The sulphuric acid was making my plated diamond bits peel quickly and the skin on my hands was suffering terribly also.  I thought to neutralize the acid with baking soda, which worked but created another problem: the rough became very slippery and so I quickly stopped that experiment.



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Melting Ice Could Push Climate To Breaking Point

Last night on Current TV both Jennifer Granholm and Cenk Uygur spent time discussing climate change and the melting of the permafrost. Carrie Mihalcik of Current TV gives background information on what this means for the planet: read more...





The Global Water Grab: Primer

Water grabbing refers to situations where powerful actors are able to take control of or divert valuable water resources and watersheds for their own benefit, depriving local communities whose livelihoods often depend on these resources and ecosystems.1 The ability to take control of such resources is linked to processes of privatisation, commodification and take-over of commonly-owned resources. They transform water from a resource openly available to all into a private good whose access must be negotiated and is often based on the ability to pay. Water grabbing thus appears in many different forms, ranging from the extraction of water for largescale food and fuel crop monocultures, to the damming of rivers for hydroelectricity, to the corporate takeover of public water resources. It also inheres in a model of development which is underwritten by a trade in virtual water. read more...




The Inevitability of Sustainability Politics, Technology and Management By Steven Cohen


Steven Cohen

Executive Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

Undertaking Water Advocacy

Join the cause to raise awareness about water rights and water quality issues. From climate change to climate refugees, the water crisis and coming water wars need your undivided attention.


Undertaking Water Advocacy