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LONDON - Carry the Can Conference, 7th July 2006
Ethical Metalsmiths, Susan Kingsley and Christina Miller: 'Stimulating demand for responsibly sourced gold'

The following text is a transcript of a presentation given at the 2006 CarrytheCan conference.

Susan Kingsley:
Good morning.

We would like to thank the conference committee for inviting us and for naming the conference, “Carry the Can.” This is an expression we could really use this in the US......

We appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about something that is of great importance to everyone here, the sources of our metals.
Before we begin, we have something to share with all of you. It is a silver ingot. When we bring it to you please pass it around the room.

We know that metal comes from a mine, but we don’t know where this silver has comes from. We don’t know if it was mined by a child in Bolivia, or if it has come from tunnel mine in Australia. If it were gold, we wouldn’t know if it had been obtained illegally in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo, or by artisanal miners in the Amazon region of Brazil. We wouldn’t know if it was from a mine in Indonesia that dumps twenty thousand tons of toxic waste into a river every day. We wouldn’t know if the gold was obtained in South Africa, in a mine three and a half kilometers below the surface of the earth, where temperatures can reach 55 degrees celsius, cave-ins frequent and worker fatalities common.

As you hold this ingot in your hands, think about it’s weight, and
the impossibility of rationalizing the additional weight of environmental and social irresponsibility that it may carry. It is a heavy burden for jewelry, and for our profession.
Although precious metals, silver and gold have special meaning and value for us, modern industrial mining is one of the world’s most polluting industries. The social and environmental impacts of mining are staggering.

Gold comes from the earth and links us to its sources in faraway lands. It links us to decisions made by giant multinational corporations and the enormous mines they operate. Gold links us to indigenous peoples, whose lands hold gold, and whose most valued assets are their spiritual and environmental connection with the earth. It links us to both the traditions of goldsmithing and the advanced technologies and scale of modern day mining. Gold links us to those who wear our jewelry with the people and
communities who depend upon gold mining to sustain themselves. Gold links us to our lives and livelihoods, our students, our galleries, and our patrons.

We know that artist- made jewelry is more than the sum of its
materials. It was not designed to appeal to the widest possible
audience or be manufactured as cheaply as possible. It is understood that this jewelry is more than “product.” It is defined by the fact that hand and mind have shaped raw material into an object. People value it because they appreciate the humanity, individuality, creativity, skill and labor invested in it by an artist. When someone chooses to buy a piece of hand made jewelry, they are making a choice.
You may be surprised to learn that eighty percent of the gold mined today is used by the jewelry industry. We may only use a small fraction of it, but what we make with the material is very significant.

The art critic Howard Risatti put it this way,
“Craft not only implies a specific way of making an object, but a special way of expressing one’s being with and in the world. He says that hand crafted object are able to reflect back to us a deeper experience—of effort, work and skill—that links the object to all other human efforts and we are able to see and understand the world differently through it.

Christina Miller speaks:
Metalsmithing has a long history.
“Gold has been known for at least six thousand years. Gold rings were used in three thousand BC as a method of payment. Until the time of Christ, Egypt remained the center of gold production. With the exception of coins, virtually all uses of the metal were decorative, for weapons, goblets, jewelry and statuary.”
“Early Egyptian wall reliefs show gold in various stages of refining and mechanical working. During ancient times, gold was obtained from small particles found in river sand. The mining of alluvial gold, as well as later vein deposits, required immense amounts of manpower. The technique of amalgamation with mercury, to improve the recovery of gold, was discovered in about the tenth century.”
It has been said that as with painting and sculpture, the origins of the goldsmith’s art can be placed somewhere between magic and pleasure. In ancient languages, gold was associated with the sun and with fire, and from the beginning, gold was seen as the
earthly reflection of supernatural power. Its scarcity and the desire for ornamentation reflecting wealth and power led to a special position for craftsmen who could transform small grains of metal into wondrous things. The tools and techniques employed in ancient Egyptian workshops are not much different than those we use today. They knew how to cast gold jewelry, and how to solder. 16th century woodcuts depict workshops with tools that are like the ones in our studios. We identify with artisans in past centuries who must have experienced the same wonder that we feel when working in gold, and who must have taken the same pride in their accomplishments. As two people who love working in metal, we understand its allure. Our ability to transform metal into precious objects is a powerful form of alchemy.

I would like to share a story that contrasts the way we, as artists and artisans, experience gold’s amazing workability, beauty and
cultural value, with the way it is perceived by those who understand gold as a source of wealth that is worth more than the people, communities, environments or the cultures they plunder.

Gold, today, has been hijacked by greed. The pillaging for gold could be compared with the Spanish conquest of the Incas. As
described by anthropologist Michael Taussig, And I quote:

“on finding the intricately worked gold figures made by the Incas, the Spaniards melted them down into ingots. ... (Pizarro) had Indian smiths working on nine forges and on many days they melted over 600 pounds weight of gold. At the end of four months they had melted down over eleven tons of gold vases, golden figures, golden jewelry, and golden furnishing ornaments. In the temple of the sun in the Incan capitol of Cuzco the Spanish found a garden whose plants were made of gold and silver, this too they melted down. Pizarro melted the garden down into ingots nice and square that
fit into boxes in ships’ holds to go to Spain as bullion, the ur-form of money. The Indians want gold as the ultimate mimetic metal, flowing and ductile, with which they can imitate almost anything. But the money boys want gold as that with which they can acquire most anything.”

Today the money boys still want gold because it is the ultimate form of money. While 80% of the gold that is mined each year is
consumed by the jewelry industry, they are not much interested in the art of goldsmithing, or the creation of cultural objects. What they seek is money, profit.

Susan speaks:
The recent 25-year high in gold prices attracted major media attention, but we have been in the midst of a gold rush for some time. World gold production in 1950 was 879 tons, in 2000 it was 2,540 tons. Gold is mined on every continent except Antarctica.
64% of all the gold ever mined (155,550 tonnes), has been mined since 1950. Information that was once hidden about the mining industry is now becoming part of regular news reporting. Here are a few headlines from the last few months.

Chile: Pascua-Lama: The problem of mining in the Andes?
You have to move glaciers – Guardian Unlimited, 5/3/06

Ghana: Ahafo: Newmont mining in Ghana: Collaboration needed
on human rights – Ethical Corporation, 5/9/06

Indonesia: Grasberg: Freeport chiefs cash in 130 million dollar
options – Financial Times, 4/11/06

Mongolia: Oyu Tolgoi/Turquoise Hill: Mongolia sits on gold and
copper bonanza – Business Week Online/AP, 5/8/06

Romania: Rosia Montana: Europe's largest gold mining project
stumbles over urban approval – Bucharest Daily News, 4/12/06

USA: Arizona: Copper prices hit new record – Eastern Arizona
Courier, 4/4/06

USA: Colorado: Gold mines keep churning – Associated
Press, 5/15/06

Exploration: Newmont Plans to Spend 158 Million dollars
Exploring for Gold in 2006 – Bloomberg, 4/6/06

USA: Montana: Troy: Higher bonds for mine sought – Associated
Press, 4/4/06

USA: Nevada: For few specks of gold, life changes in Nevada
town – Associated Press, 5/15/06

Community Opposition: Indigenous join global protest of
Newmont gold mining practices – Indian Country Today, 5/12/06

Community Opposition: Muslim rebels oppose Philippine
mining revival – Reuters, 5/8/06

Vietnam: Vietnam gold mining firm begins production –
AP/BusinessWeek Online, 4/11/06

Zimbabwe: Muagabe Plans to Nationalize All Zimbabwe's Mines
– ENS, 5/17/06

The colossal scale of mining is almost unimaginable for those of us trained to think in grams, pennyweights and millimeters.
New mines are increasingly open-pit operations rather than underground shafts. Open pit mines cost less to operate but produce eight to ten times the amount of waste rock as underground mines.

The world’s largest open-pit mine is the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah. It is one and a half kilometers deep, two and a half kilometers wide, and can be seen easily from space. This mammoth ore truck gives you another idea of the scale of these operations. These trucks haul 240 tons of ore at a time. With open-pit mining, the production of one gold ring generates, on
average, twenty tons of mine waste. Those are short (American) tons, but it doesn’t matter. It still calculates as billions and billions of tons of waste rock and sediment accumulating at mine sites throughout the world, mountains of waste, like you see in this picture near the Bingham Mine. This waste is often contaminated with chemicals such as arsenic, cyanide, mercury and sulfuric acid and disposing of it responsibly is a big problem.

48In this picture you can see a common sight around mining operations. It shows the most widespread and serious environmental problem with mining. It is called AMD, acid mine drainage and sometimes ARD, acid rock drainage. When waste rock containing sulfides is exposed to the elements, the natural process of oxidation produces sulfuric acid, which leaches various toxic metals from the rock. The result is a perpetual flow of acid and toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury or lead leaking from the exposed rock, polluting groundwater, streams and rivers. This may continue not just for a few years, but for tens of thousands of years. Treatment procedures are difficult to implement, very costly and may need to be maintained in perpetuity!

The problem of AMD is not confined to gold mines, and is a growing problem in the UK as coal, tin and other mining activities close down. According to a 1999 Parliament research paper, Individual mine closures has not resulted in massive problems as yet because of continued pumping at nearby operational mines. You may have heard (51) of the Wheal Jane mine in Cornwall.

When its pumps were switched off in January 1992, the ground water level rose and burst the drainage system. Millions of liters of toxic waste water were released into the Carnon River, contaminating the whole river system down to the estuary in Falmouth Bay. The abandoned Iron Mountain mine in Northern California covers an area of seventeen square kilometers, and is likely the most frequently sited example of AMD. (52) The mine was active for one hundred years and experts predict that it will contaminate the watershed for at least three thousand years. Groundwater near the mine has been measured to be ten thousand times more acidic than battery acid. It is a "Superfund" site that is undergoing remediation by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Cyanide has been widely used in recent years to separate gold from ore and has made it profitable to mine where the ore is low grade. Under the right circumstances and good management, it can be a safe and effective process. But it has been the cause of catastrophic spills in recent years, in Spain, the United States, Ghana and in Romania, where six years ago, (55) one hundred thousand metric tons of toxic wastewater breached a tailings dam, killing fish and poisoning the drinking water of two and a half million people. At some mines, contaminated mine wastes are intentionally dumped into oceans or rivers. While this practice has been outlawed in the US and Canada, the practice continues, legally or illegally, in places such as Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea, where it has ruined ecosystems and disrupted coastal communities. The Ok Tedi in western PapUa, New Guinea discharges, on a daily basis, two hundred thousand tons of mine waste. That is right, every day! It has contaminated the river and coastal waters with toxic metals, killing nearly all the fish, and caused widespread flooding, permanently displacing thirty to fifty thousand people.

I think it is safe to say that mining and protected natural areas, such as National Parks are incompatible. The mining industry
apparently doesn’t agree, and continues to propose new mines, in, or adjacent to officially protected World Heritage sites. Twenty five percent of all sites listed for natural value are at risk from past, current or future mining. MINING THREATENS FORTY PER CENT OF THE WORLD’S PRISTINE AREAS!

In 1998 the Los Frailes in Spain mine released four to five million cubic meters of tailings containing toxic metals into the Rio Agrio, and onto several thousand hectares of farmland. This tailings dam failure narrowly missed contaminating Donana National Park, a UN World Heritage site that is a major habitat for (61) migrating birds and one of Europe's most important wetland reserves.

Another protected area is Alerces National Park, which contains the largest alerce forest in Argentina. Alerce is one of the longest-
living trees in the world, and some in this park are three thousand years old. A Canadian Mining Company has proposed an open-pit mine with cyanide heap-leaching next to this park.

This panorama of a fragile tundra is near the site of a proposed gold mine in Alaska, already named the Pebble Mine. The land is
home to a herd of one hundred and twenty thousand caribou as well as moose, bear and other animals, such as beavers. As an open- pit /cyanide heap/leach mining operation, it would cover fifty two square kilometers, threaten the watershed of the most productive commercial and sport salmon fishery in the world and disrupt several thriving native communities and the economic benefit of tourism.

Although mining is often presented as an economic opportunity, the reality is that its impact on local communities is often adverse. Modern mines are highly mechanized, and the skilled workers are usually imported. The financial benefits from mining usually end up in the pockets of foreign investors or central governments, leaving communities with a radically changed landscape, pollution and the loss of traditional livelihoods.

It is expected that by 2015, fifty percent of mining will occur on native lands, in remote areas where indigenous populations may have lived for thousands of years. Even when surface land rights clearly belong to indigenous groups, governments are selling the subsurface rights to mining corporations without their consent. Government and business interests often do not respect the spiritual and cultural connection indigenous people have with their lands, and in many instances their relative isolation from mainstream society leaves them without basic legal and political safeguards. Some of the countries that have indigenous populations affected by mining are the US, Australia, Peru, Indonesia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina.

Approximately forty percent of world gold production comes from artisanal and small-scale mining. It is estimated that as many as thirteen million people mine gold and gemstones in small collectives. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority is poor, under trained, and working illegally in unsafe conditions. Many continue to use mercury to separate gold, which can result in severe neurological problems, lowered intelligence and birth defects. Once introduced into ecosystems, mercury does not go away. Additionally, artisanal miners often do not receive fair compensation for their efforts.

Well, is anyone ready for some good news?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way! There is hope. A better world is possible—one in which mines operate
responsibly, and profitably, the jewelry industry is strong, and ethical gold is the standard.

Until recently, the public was unaware of the impacts of irresponsible metals mining. That is changing, at least in the US, largely due to the consumer awareness campaign, No Dirty Gold. Since its launch in 2004, EARTHWORKS and OXFAM America have gathered the signatures of fifty thousand consumers, demanding that the global mining industry provide an alternative to dirty gold.

More and more people are concerned about their purchases and are looking for ethical choices in everything from wood and paper products to clothing, organic produce and coffee. The No Dirty Gold campaign is asking consumers to tell the mining industry that they want ethically produced jewelry. This campaign is in no way a boycott or effort to discourage the sales of gold jewelry.

The No Dirty Gold Campaign also drafted the Golden Rules, criteria that would provide the framework for more responsible gold production. As of today, eleven major American jewelry retailers have signed on, to show that they agree in principle with the list, including Tiffany, Cartier and Zales.

Last fall the New York Times published a special four-part, in-depth series on mining issues, which started a national discussion. They have spurred radio programs, public television documentaries and commentary about mining on various “green” websites.

Tiffany’s CEO, Michael Kowalski, took out a full page ad in the Washington Post criticizing the antiquated American 1872 mining law and voicing opposition to the development of a silver mine in one of Montana’s National Forests. It is very hopeful when you hear the leader of a major jewelry company speak out for mining reform. He said, “ We at Tiffany and Co. understand that mining must remain an important industry. But like some other businesses benefiting from trade in precious metals we also believe that reforms are urgently needed. Minerals should - and can - be extracted, processed and used in ways that are environmentally and socially responsible.”

In a recent article, Kowalski said “What the company would like to see, perhaps five years down the road.... is a third-party certificate program for "good gold," along with mining certification: "It's a market- driven solution. It's not about government regulation. It's about like- minded people making an assessment about their customers. We are not miners – we do not operate mines. What we are trying to do is put pressure on the mining industry by saying, 'Make your Research and Development investments, do what it takes to do it right and if you do, there will be a market for it."

It was also hopeful to learn that Jewelers of America, joined with a dozen other industry leaders and founded the Council for Responsible Jewelry Practices. CRJP is working on an ethics code that would apply to every link in the gold supply chain, from miners to refiners to retailers. We are looking forward to hearing more about CRJP and their process during the next presentation by Santiago Porto. Jewelers of America also took a very bold position in November, 2005 when their president sent a letter to the US House of Congress while a bill was being considered that would have given public land to private mining interests.

He said, “JA supports meaningful reform to the clearly outdated Mining Act of 1872. Our eleven thousand member stores, spread throughout the United States, firmly believe that mining reforms should include strict environmental regulations that adequately protect our nation’s watersheds, forests and wildlife and should institute fair market value fees for mining on Federal Lands.” The Bill was defeated.

We are also seeing good news among some of the largest mining companies in the world. BHP Billiton announced that it will not commit to any new mining projects that dispose waste rock tailings into a river. Additionally the company has decided not to pursue Deep Sea Tailing Placement (DSTP). It is a very significant move, and one that we hope other mining companies will follow.

Discussions about Fair Trade gold are often overshadowed by projects with larger budgets, but organizations representing
Artisanal and Small Scale Mining in South America and Africa are making progress. One is A.R.M, the Association for Responsible
Mining. An independent, global-scale effort, they hope to bring credibility, transparency and legitimacy to developing a suitable framework and certification.

While we are more familiar with American organizations, there are also groups in the UK that are concerned about mining issues. (79) The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, C.A.F.O.D, has launched a campaign called, Unearth Justice that is targeting gold mining in Honduras and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their website provides extensive information on gold mining and also describes ways for individuals to get involved.

Another British-based effort is the Mines and Communities website, a collaboration between three groups, People against Rio
Tinto and Subsidiaries, aka Partizans, Indigenous Peoples Links and the Society of St. Columban. They maintain up-to-the-minute news of mine-related issues from the point of view of workers and communities.

And finally, we don’t want to leave you with the impression that all mining, today, is bad mining. There are good mines that would meet or surpass the golden rules criteria. With a single framework and certification system in place, we would have the choice to buy gold from good mines. Right now we do not have that choice.

But again, there is good news. Last month, mining companies and trade organizations, environmental and human rights groups and large jewelry retailers and trade organizations met in (81) Vancouver to discuss establishing a single framework and system for certifying metal. We see this meeting as significant progress.


So, What led us to form Ethical Metalsmiths?

Arundhati Roy, in her book, God of Small Things, said “What is happening to the world lies, at the moment, just outside the realm of common human understanding. It is the writers, the poets, the artists, the singers, the filmmakers who can make the connections, who can find the ways of bringing it into the realm of common understanding..... An art, which can make the impalpable palpable, make the intangible tangible, and the invisible visible.”

Susan and I began working together after being introduced by a mutual friend in the winter of 2004. I had just finished up my masters thesis, titled “Ethical Prospects: A Critical Representation of the Co-Dependent Relationship Between Metalsmithing and Metal Mining”. Robert Ebendorf who is here as part of the conference was one of my mentors on this project. The body of work that resulted after extensive research into the issues continues to be a creative milestone in my art.

Susan had just finished her article “The Price of Gold” that was featured in the Summer 2004 issue of Metalsmith magazine.
Susan is known for her conceptually driven work and writing about issues such as art, craft, feminism and jewelry advertising. She was shocked by the information she had unearthed in her research for the article and uncomfortable being the barer of bad news.
Working alone on such complex issues was excruciatingly difficult and each of us had exhausted the patience of friends and families. We talked endlessly about AMD, mercury poisoning, polluted rivers, dangerous working conditions, political corruption, human rights, displaced communities, exploited developing countries, etc. etc.

We were not only annoying, but depressing. How do you tell your colleagues that the metal they use is tarnished — not raw and pristine as they assume.

Although we hadn’t met in person, we spent hours on the phone, discussing mining and metalsmithing and what we could do. As both of us were coming from very similar perspectives, collaboration was easy and exciting.....and challenging as we live on opposite coasts. Our first meeting was in Vermont in the summer of 2004. As artists, we wanted whatever project we did to be integrated into our creative practice.

One of our first goals was to begin a dialog with our colleagues about mining issues. In 2005 we presented a panel at the Society of North American Goldsmiths conference that included a scientist, a Native American and an environmental policy expert.

At the same time we also began developing the website. is intended to be a resource for designer jewelers, metalsmiths, students and teachers who want to know more. The site receives many visitors and we get emails daily, usually asking, “Where can I buy responsibly mined gold?”

Ethical Metalsmiths also want to have fun. We created “Runway Brides” a performance piece for the Exhibition in Motion at SNAG
2005. Set to the 1956 American classic, Band of Gold, ten “Brides” in virgin whites hula-hooped across the stage in choreographed

In the fall of 2005 Jennifer Horning, a jeweler and environmental lawyer, joined us. Her expertise and vision for how the project could affect the market place helped focus our efforts and boost our presence among key participants in mining reform.

Our first attempt at combining art and activism is our Golden Opportunity exhibition, which was projected yesterday during lunch. We envisioned it as a global collaboration to understand gold. We advertised it on various art list serves, with direct invites and by posting fliers. In total we had work by eighty five artists from nineteen different countries working in practically every media. We were pleased that so many people responded and took on the challenge of “smithing” ideas about gold in their work and artist statements. The virtual exhibition premiered this May at the SNAG conference in Chicago, and will continue on our website through November.

And we are very proud to announce that the resolution in support of responsible mining we proposed at the conference passed with overwhelming support.

It reads,

Whereas, the Society of North American Goldsmiths is an organization of individuals who take great pride in their work as metal artists, jewelers and educators; and Whereas, our organization seeks to advance the field of metalsmithing in a manner that is consistent with the highest ethical standards; and Whereas, the use of irresponsibly mined gold that harms people, communities or the environment does not reflect our values; therefore be it resolved, that we do hereby call upon the mining industry to work within an authenticated framework of responsible mining practices; and be it further Resolved, that we will support and encourage the use of gold that is independently certified to reflect that it has been responsibly sourced according to broadly-accepted environmental, social and human rights standards.

The president of SNAG, Sam Shaw had this to say, “I am proud of the organization for taking this step to communicate our desire for responsibly sourced gold. The resolution makes clear our care and respect for people, communities and our land.”

Responsibly sourced materials add an additional value to jewelry. Ethics. Consider the power of jewelry when two options are available – the ethical certified choice or the unethical choice. Whether to use yellow or white gold becomes a small choice in comparison.

As creators of the project we are calling Ethical Metalsmiths we are not telling anyone what to do, but we are actively sharing tools to promote change in current systems and are creating opportunities for others to find their own terms of engagement.

Nato Thompson curated an exhibition in 2004 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and wrote in his essay for the show’s catalog, the following analysis of Interventionist Art and artists, “They want results beyond aesthetic pleasure. Frustrated with political irrelevance, they operate in many different social games, from the art world to political activism to biotechnology. They understand their work means different things to different people. With this in mind, we can sidestep the argument about whether these practices, in and of themselves, are politically effective. They (artists in the exhibition / interventionists) represent methods of protest and public education integrally connected to larger social movements.” As artists we share common ground with interventionists and have adopted similar “tactics” in our own approach.

We have explained what we are about. While neither Susan nor I are getting a great deal of bench work done these days – so little that we even miss the long hours spent sawing and sanding – we are rewarded by the fact that our activism is having an effect. Jewelry is a practical artform rooted in traditional economies and therefore we firmly believe that designer jewelers should have a voice in what tend to be suit and tie negotiations. We want to promote mining reform and, we hope to encourage others in our field to become involved in effecting the changes that are so urgently needed.


Here is a list of things we can all do now.
We must recognize that gold tarnished by human rights abuses and environmental destruction presents an ethical dilemma.

We can demand, and help create the demand for gold that has been certified as responsibly mined or recycled.

We can become advocates for responsible mining by educating our students, customers and colleagues about the issues.

We can stay informed about mining issues and what is being accomplished in other sectors. Our website, was created, in part, to be a clearinghouse of information for metalsmiths.

As individuals, we can join and support the efforts of the environmental and human rights organizations that are already working, very effectively, on mining reform.

We can question the origins of our materials. We can demand a choice. We can seek ways to change our mode of being in the world to promote, in everything we do, values of conservation and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and communities.

Consider adopting a resolution in support of responsible mining as our organization did. You have a voice. A resolution is a way for you to be heard.

The future of gold is not solely in the hands of mining corporations, or by initiatives drafted by the jewelry manufacturing industry, or through the efforts of NGOs or in the hands of fate. We live in a time of vast change. And often change happens as much by inspiration as by imposition. Another world is not only possible, it is inevitable, and we live in the time of its creation. Designer jewellers can be catalysts for change.