The Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed could threaten the world's largest sockeye salmon run, and five prominent jewelry retailers are voicing their opposition.
The copper and gold mine, proposed by a joint Canadian-English venture, wouldn't meet their standards, as they strive to do away with "dirty gold," according to the Los Angeles Times.
The jewelery retailers Tiffany & Co., Ben Bridge Jeweler, Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, and Leber Jeweler, Inc. signed the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge today.
Dirty? Gold mines produce 76 tons of waste for every ounce of gold, according to the Times. That waste includes toxic and hazardous wastes, notably mercury. The Pogo Mine in Alaska, for instance, is one of the nation's top 10 producers of mercury pollution. The U.S. is not the only host of gold mines, of course, and companies are being urged through the No Dirty Gold campaign to use only those mines that adhere to sufficiently high standards for environmental protection and worker safety.
Advocates are urging 23 other retailers, including Wal-Mart, to take the same pledge. Meanwhile, Alaskan officials are considering granting permits for the mine.
If developed, the Pebble Mine could produce $300 billion worth of gold at a time when prices for gold are rising and likely to remain elevated, but it would produce 12 billion tons of waste that would cover 10 square miles.
At this point, retailers have no more way of knowing the source of their gold than do customers purchasing it, according to the Times. That should change, as the industry establishes a "chain of custody" accounting program, so that one should be able to trace gold from the mine to the ring finger.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.