IMPACT on Gold

In 2005, IMPACT brought its expertise on the diamond supply chain to global efforts to end the illicit trade of gold. We began long-term collaborations and partnerships with international and regional initiatives to support the formalization of the artisanal gold mining sector, to promote and implement traceability and due diligence, and end the illicit trade of gold.

What is gold?

Gold is a rare, soft metal. Scientists believe that the gold we find near the earth’s surface was formed by a massive star exploding and hitting the earth as an asteroid billions of years ago. Gold is sometimes found in sheets of crystallized minerals along with rocks like quartz and granite—called rock gold. It can also be found in small flakes in soil, sand, silt, gravel, and other matter left behind by flowing water—called alluvial gold.

Where is gold found?

Gold can be found all over the world, though the largest known deposits are in India and Africa. The top gold producing nations include China, Australia, the United States, Russia, and South Africa. After being mined, gold is smelted, assayed, and refined before it is ready for wider uses. The world’s largest refineries are in Switzerland, with other major hubs in North America and the United Arab Emirates.

How do you use gold?

Gold is most commonly used in jewellery but has a range of other uses. In some places it’s still an alternative to paper currency and is purchased by governments for economic security. Gold has been used in dentistry and medicine for centuries and, more recently, in electronic and communications equipment. It’s found in small quantities in almost all electronic devices—from cell phones and televisions, to GPS units and computers. Gold is a highly efficient conductor and is used extensively in wiring.

How is gold mined?

Rock gold is typically extracted with heavy equipment, either from large open pit mines or in deep underground shafts, often during large-scale mining operations. The gold is then crushed into fragments and processed using chemicals. Alluvial gold can be collected by industrial operations with modern equipment or using labour-intensive techniques such as panning, sluicing, and dredging. Artisanal and small-scale miners—who produce about 12% of the world’s gold—often work informally with limited tools or equipment. Artisanal miners extract both alluvial and rock gold, often processing rock gold with harmful chemicals like mercury.

Gold, security, and human rights

Artisanal gold mining remains largely informal around the world and is prone to widespread corruption and violence. Due to its use as an alternative to paper currency, gold is often favoured for money laundering and illicit trade. It is a high-value, easy-to-transport mineral, which makes it an ideal target for armed groups. As a result, artisanal gold mining communities are often exploited by armed groups and governments lose revenue when gold is smuggled out of the country.

In countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia, armed groups have used gold mining to finance their activities. Additionally, gold is prone to smuggling as the full value of artisanal gold production is rarely declared, which results in revenue losses for these governments when the mineral is traded outside the country. According to the United Nations Security Council’s Group of Experts, 98% of artisanal gold production in Democratic Republic of Congo is undeclared.

Due to the largely informal nature of artisanal gold mining, it often lacks regulation and safety oversight. At mines where armed forces are present there are instances of human rights abuses, dangerous working conditions, child labour, and gender-based violence. While women take on different roles in gold mining, they often face discriminatory views and practices that limit their opportunities to fully benefit from mining.

Artisanal gold mining can also have serious impacts on the environment and human health. It is one of the biggest sources of mercury pollution worldwide due to the mercury used to process gold. Contaminated air, soil, and water hurt biodiversity and are dangerous for miners and their communities—particularly children.

Gold has officially been designated a conflict mineral—along with tin, tungsten, and tantalum (the 3Ts)—and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) is focused on promoting the implementation of traceability and due diligence for the conflict-prone mineral.

Internationally, private sector disclosure laws are drawing attention to supply chain transparency. Companies based in the United States and the European Union are required to publicly report on their 3T and gold supply chain and demonstrate they have measures in place to ensure they are not inadvertently funding conflict.

We Reveal

We Reveal

Our research investigates the drivers of the illicit gold trade, such as lax controls within countries and at trading hubs, and highlights recommendations such as formalization of the artisanal mining sector, fiscal reform, and harmonization of legislation.

As leading experts in ending the illicit trade of gold, we provide analysis of certification, traceability, and due diligence as it applies to gold. In 2011, we published Taming the Resource Curse: Implementing the ICGLR Certification Mechanism for Conflict-prone Minerals, which outlined a certification mechanism for the 3Ts and gold (3TG) based on best practices. The mechanism was approved by all the Heads of State of the ICGLR with the Lusaka Declaration in December 2010.

We’ve undertaken extensive research into women’s livelihoods, challenges, and opportunities for empowerment within the artisanal gold sector.

We are also addressing environmental concerns and advancing the health of mining communities. We’ve collaborated with the United Nations Environment Programme on environmental assessments of artisanal gold mine sites and promoted mine site safety and environmental mitigation measures, including recommendations to reduce the use of mercury.

We Innovate

We Innovate

As part of our efforts to transform the gold supply chain, we’ve led efforts to support traceability and due diligence for the mineral while promoting benefits for the miners, their communities, and the producing countries.

Since 2005, we’ve been working in partnership with the ICGLR—which classified gold as a conflict-prone mineral—and have taken significant steps to curb the illicit trade of gold. We advised the ICGLR during the drafting of the Regional Initiative against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and we are a technical partner supporting their implementation of the initiative’s six tools, including the Regional Certification Mechanism and formalization of the artisanal sector.

We helped develop the Regional Certification Mechanism and currently provide technical guidance to implement it across the ICGLR countries. To assist implementation efforts, we drafted a detailed Certification Manual in coordination with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Due Diligence Guidance.

We have also supported the drafting of relevant domestic legislation, delivered our sensitization workshops, and provided training to mine site inspectors across Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. In addition, we are supporting the ICGLR as it operationalizes the Regional Database on Mineral Flows, which will provide national and regional authorities, as well as international buyers, with transparent and reliable data on minerals from the Great Lakes.

We supported the founding of a regional civil society network, the Great Lakes Region Civil Society Coalition against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources (COSOC-GL), and have provided training to support regional civil society organizations in their efforts to end the illicit trade of gold. We further collaborated with COSOC-GL to develop a toolkit for civil society to monitor and report on risks in the 3T and gold supply chain in order to support the private sector in their public reporting.
We contributed to the development of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, advised on the supplement that provides specific guidance for gold, and continue to promote its implementation.

We provide capacity building and sensitization workshops to policymakers, civil society, and the private sector on their responsibilities with regards to due diligence, and international and regional regulations. We also work with stakeholders to develop strategies to improve controls and end illicit trade.

Just Gold

Our efforts to support the formalization of the artisanal mining sector, while promoting traceability and due diligence, led to the launch of the Just Gold project in Democratic Republic of Congo. While there had been advances in traceability and due diligence in the 3T sector, there was a gap for artisanal gold from conflict areas.

Just Gold is the first project to successfully trace conflict-free and legal artisanal gold from mine site to export, applying regional and international standards applicable for minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. In 2017, a Canadian jeweller partnered with the Just Gold project and offered the first consumer goods out of conflict-free artisanal gold from DRC that were fully traced from mine to consumer.

Through the Just Gold project, we are providing technical assistance and training to artisanal miners that can improve their gold yields. We also provide training on reducing mercury and implementing mine site safety.

 Artisanal Mining Women’s Empowerment Credit and Savings (AFECCOR)

The Artisanal Mining Women’s Empowerment Credit and Savings project (AFECCOR), supports women and men in artisanal gold mining communities to access savings and credit. AFFECOR promotes entrepreneurship and economic security while decreasing reliance on informal credit networks. These informal credit networks characterize the “gold economy,” where gold is used as currency to cover basic needs and mine site operations, often with unfavourable conditions.

We Engage

We Engage

Our work to end the illicit gold trade requires significant dialogue across stakeholders to promote tested systems. We drive dialogue with partners, including policymakers and industry to implement traceability and due diligence for the gold supply chain, as well as ensure benefits reach miners and their communities.

We support regional approaches to end the smuggling and illicit trade of gold and other conflict-prone minerals, especially through work with our partners in in West Africa and the Great Lakes region to develop and implement joint strategies.

We partner with COSOC-GL, a civil society network in the Great Lakes region working to end the illicit trade of natural resources, who bring the voices and concerns of artisanal miners to industry and governments. Together, we engage governments to strengthen their internal controls, and encourage the private sector to put in place traceability and due diligence for the entire gold supply chain.

We provide sensitization and open dialogue about the needs of artisanal gold miners and restrictions they may face when entering the formal economy.

We conduct significant outreach in relation to women’s rights, especially their rights to access, control, and benefit from natural resources.

We also promote sensitization and raise awareness among consumers about the origin of the gold they purchase.

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