Hunger for Gold in the Global North is fueling a living hell in the Global South
Hunger for gold in the Global North is fueling a living hell for Indigenous people in the Global South. Here’s reasons why you should #BoycottGold4Yanomami @barbaranavarroTweet
Behind the insatiable appetite for #gold is a dark secret of money laundering, illegal #mining, environmental damage and human misery. #BoycottGold4Yanomami @BarbaraNavarroTweet
1. Gold mining = greenwashing of crime and corruption
Just like in every other extractive industry in the developing world, palm oil, fossil fuels, gold mining goes hand-in-hand with greenwashing
2. Even the world’s biggest gold-importing nations don’t properly monitor the origins of their gold
Switzerland, one of the world’s biggest gold-buying nations has weak and pathetic policies for monitoring the origin of gold
The message is loud and clear: the current system to prevent the importation and refining in Switzerland of illegal gold has been found lacking. The country’s financial watchdog reports that Customs data is not sufficiently transparent to differentiate between mined gold, bank gold and recycled gold, all of which are imported under the same code (HS 710812). This absence of identification means bars of dubious origin can easily slip through the net. The report also pinpoints inadequate legislation, compounded by underwhelming penalties: at worst, a CHF 2,000 fine.
‘Switzerland bottom of the class for gold due diligence’, Christophe Roulet, FHH Journal
3. Laundering crimes using gold is easy
Corruption and laundering gold is simple and easy
Since there is no way to measure whether any given land could feasibly produce the reported amount of gold, illegal miners can co-opt owners of illegal permits to ‘wash’ gold for a fee – estimated by the public prosecutor’s office at 10% of the value of the gold transaction‘Procedural Limitations of Monitoring and Tracking the Illegal Mining Process in the Brazilian Amazon’ (2021)
In 2020, banks flagged $514.9bn suspicious transactions involving gold companies.
FinCEN Files investigations into the gold trade from around the world. Kyra Guerny, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 2020.
If there’s a crackdown in Peru, you just smuggle the gold across the border to Chile. Or if there’s a crackdown all across Latin America, then you can simply sell your gold through the Emirates, where there are very few controls. It’s a very difficult industry to completely eliminate the opportunities for money laundering, because it’s so global and you can just keep shifting your business.‘‘Dirty Gold’ chases ‘three amigos’ from Miami to Peru and beyond’:
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
4. Gold is a legal version of cocaine
For drug cartels in South America: Gold is just like a legitimate, legal version of cocaine
“Criminal groups make so much more money from gold than from cocaine, and it’s so much easierIvan Díaz Corzo, a former member of Colombia’s anti-criminal-mining task force. ‘How drug lords make billions smuggling gold to Miami for your jewelry and phones‘. Miami Herald, 2018.
Drug-cartel associates posing as precious-metals traders buy and mine gold in Latin America. Cocaine profits are their seed money. They sell the metal through front companies — hiding its criminal taint — to refineries in the United States and other major gold-buying nations like Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
Once the deal is made, the cocaine kingpins have successfully turned their dirty gold into clean cash. To the outside world, they’re not drug dealers anymore; they’re gold traders. That’s money laundering.‘How drug lords make billions smuggling gold to Miami for your jewelry and phones‘. Miami Herald, 2018.
5. Gold mining causes massive deforestation
Mining in Indigenous territories of the Amazon is responsible for 23% of deforestation, up from 4% in 2017
“Over the past decade, illegal mining incursions — mostly small-scale gold extraction operations — have increased fivefold on Indigenous lands and threefold in other protected areas of Brazil”‘Illegal mining in the Amazon hits record high amid Indigenous protests’, Jeff Tollerson, Nature 2021.
“The Amazon Rainforest does not burn by itself. Behind every fire that is lit is corporate greed, like agribusiness. And behind them are the largest banks and corporations in the world. They are the ones who profit from this destruction. They profit from every centimeter of land invaded, from every tree cut and burned. In the flames, they see money.”Sônia Guajajara, executive director of the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB).
Venezuela’s illegitimate Maduro regime has rolled back Indigenous rights to stop Yanomami from protesting against gold mining
Venezuela’s constitution recognises its indigenous populations, yet their rights are trampled by the illegitimate Maduro criminal regime. The land is also occupied by armed Colombian groups and others working for the Maduro regime, which seeks to profit from selling the illegally mined minerals.‘Under Maduro regime, indigenous people suffer’, Noelani Kirschner, Share America, 2020.
7. Brazil’s racist President, Bolsonaro allows land-grabbing from indigenous people
Image: Transparency International
Far Right president Jair Bolsonaro’s racist policies in Brazil call for an increase in gold mining, palm oil and cattle grazing and the ‘integration’ of Indigenous people
More than 15% of the national territory is demarcated as indigenous land and quilombolas. Less than a million people live in these truly isolated places in Brazil, exploited and manipulated by NGOs. Let’s together integrate these citizens and value all Brazilians.Jair Bolsonaro
“We are experiencing an emergency to defend indigenous lives and our territories. We need the world to know this, and to do its part. Indigenous land: not an inch less. Indigenous blood: not a single drop more.”Sônia Guajajara, executive director of the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB).
8. Indigenous women and children are forced into sex slavery
Sex trafficking is common by women and children, as indigenous people’s traditional means of survival on the land is taken from them
The scale of sex trafficking and paedophilia around illegal gold mines in parts of Latin America is staggering. Thousands of people working there fall prey to labor exploitation by organised crime groups, simply because they have to survive. Girls as young as 12 working in the brothels and bars around illegal gold mines.‘Sex trafficking ‘staggering’ in illegal Latin American gold mines: researchers’ By Anastasia Moloney, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 2016.
Mining regions in the rainforest have become epicenters of human trafficking, disease and environmental destruction, according to government officials and human rights investigators. Miners are forced into slavery. Prostitutes set up camps near the miners, fueling the spread of sexually transmitted infections. One human rights group found that 2,000 sex workers, 60 percent of them children, were employed in a single mining area in Peru. Meanwhile, strip mining and the indiscriminate use of mercury to ferret out gold are turning swaths of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems into a nightmarish moonscape. In 2016, Peru declared a temporary state of emergency over widespread mercury poisoning in Madre de Dios, a jungle province rife with illegal mining. Nearly four in five adults in the area’s capital city tested positive for dangerous levels of mercury…”Barbara Navarro
9. Violence and murder in gold mining is common
Gold miners are controlled by fear of having their fingers cut off or of being executed
The illegitimate Maduro regime both controls the illegal gold mining and turns a blind eye to environmental and human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch report collected testimonials from Venezuelan gold miners. The report revealed that miners are kept under tight control by syndicates of armed criminals, such as the guerilla organisation FARC, also known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the ELN, also known as the National Liberation Army. If miners or other members of the public are caught stealing they have their fingers publicly cut off or are killed.‘Venezuela: Violent Abuses in Illegal Gold Mines’, Human Rights Watch, 2020.
10. Mercury used in gold mining kills ecosystems, people and animals
Deadly mercury is used to extract gold out of the sludge. This poisons and kills everything in its path
Firstly, water cannons blast away river banks. After this, toxic mercury is used by miners to extract gold from the sediment. After the process, the dumping of mercury contaminates the soil and seeps into the air and water. This permanently destroys the water table, dispersing mercury 100’s of miles away, contaminating fishing stocks, animals and humans. Both people and animals in gold mining regions have high levels of mercury present in their bodies, leading to chronic illnesses and problems with brain function.‘The New Gold Rush’, Wake Forest University, 2018.
11. Ecosystems rarely recover from the damage – they are dead
“Gold mining significantly limits the regrowth of Amazonian forests, and greatly reduces their ability to accumulate carbon. Recovery rates on abandoned mining pits and tailing ponds were among the lowest ever recorded for tropical forests, compared to recovery from agriculture and pasture.”‘Gold mining leaves deforested Amazon land barren for years, find scientists’ The Conversation, July 1, 2020.
12. Jewellery and electronics companies and criminals are the only ones who benefit from gold
Venezuelan gold from Yanomami territories is laundered and ends up in global brands of jewellery and electronics
An investigation of mercury trafficking networks in the Amazon reveals how Venezuelan gold is laundered into legitimate supply chains and could end up in products made by the world’s biggest corporations.
The tainted gold leaves the refineries in glittering bars stamped with their logos, and is sold to international corporations that incorporate the precious metal in our phones, computers, cars, and other technologies.Mercury: Chasing the Quicksilver by InfoAmazonia
13. More than a million children work in gold mining around the world
There are more than 1 million children working in goldmines around the world. Some of this gold ends up in our mobile telephones. This is the conclusion of the study conducted by SOMO Centre for Research in recent months, which was commissioned by Stop Child Labour.
Every year, the electronics industry uses 279,000 kg of gold with a value of more than 10 billion euros. Making it the third largest buyer of gold after the jewellery industry and the financial sector. Even though nearly all electronics companies state that they do not accept child labour, they are almost doing nothing to actively eradicate child labour in goldmines.Gold, Child Labour and Electronics
How can I help?
Here’s some actions you can take every day to stop the corruption, destruction and human rights abuses associated with gold mining.
1. Raise your voice online for the Yanomami using the hashtag #BoycottGold4Yanomami
Share this article along with many articles by Indigenous Activist Barbara Crane Navarro about this issue on social media using the hashtag #BoycottGold4Yanomami
Image: Barbara Crane Navarro
2. Stop buying gold jewellery and investing in gold
Put your money where your mouth is and don’t support this corrupt and evil industry.
3. Buy vintage second-hand gold jewellery – don’t buy new gold
This makes a unique and special gift for the one you love. It also does not require more mining to get the gold jewellery. This is the ONLY form of sustainable gold jewellery.
4. Don’t fall for the luxury advertising of jewellery brands like Chopard, Tiffany&Co, Cartier, Bvlgari etc.
Don’t be a sucker for luxury. Remember the reality of what gold and diamond mining is doing to the natural world and to Indigenous people.
5. Fix and repair old mobile phones and laptops rather than buying new ones containing gold
This can be hard with the planned obsolescence of a lot of technology (in other words the short lifespan). However all we can do is do our best. Also you can pressure tech brands to make their goods more long-lasting and repairable and cite this as a critical reason why their industry is corrupt, greedy and needs to change.
6. Support Indigenous Rights NGOs that actually stop landgrabbing in the Amazon, Africa and elsewhere like Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB)
APIB recently successfully took the Brazilian government and Bolsonaro to court for ecocide and deforestation. Avoid supporting NGO’s that do very little other than virtue-signalling, like Survival.
6. Follow Barbara Crane Navarro on Twitter and WordPress
She has spent decades fighting for the Yanomami people.
Images: Barbara Crane Navarro