Retailers for Responsible Mining: Toby Pomeroy

Earthworks' No Dirty Gold campaign is encouraged by growing consumer awareness of the importance of responsibly mined gold. We also appreciate the many retailers who are steadily building a market for ethical jewelry.

Earthworks asks retailers, from large department stores to small businesses, to sign the No Dirty Gold pledge, and source their gold products exclusively from mines who uphold the Golden Rules for responsible mining. We are heartened to see that 98 retailers have made a commitment to improved standards in gold.

We continue our series interviewing NDG retailers, with Toby Pomeroy,  who started jewelry making in college and built a business committed to ethical sourcing.

1. When did you first hear about the No Dirty Gold campaign? In your opinion, what kind of impact has the campaign had in terms of raising awareness about mining impacts?

When I first saw No Dirty Gold, I had a stark realization that I was participating in the active destruction of the planet and I wasn’t ok with that. I couldn’t continue making jewelry, glossing over the fact that I was part of a very big problem, so I began looking into it. I first went to Hoover and Strong and asked them to supply us with reclaimed metals and they agreed which was visionary on their part. Their inventory now consists entirely of reclaimed gold, silver and platinum. We then branded our jewelry as created from Eco-gold and Eco-silver and that's been huge for us. NDG has been catalytic.  All of a sudden I had many partners in the world who shared my commitment to responsible sourcing of minerals. It's massive, the increase in awareness that No Dirty Gold has created. When we first came out with this, there was a tiny degree of awareness about responsible mining. Since then it's almost universal that jewelers are aware that there are major problems with responsible mining and of the need for traceable sourcing.

2. What motivated you to sign the Golden Rules? How do you implement the Golden Rules in your day-to-day business?

Without a critical mass of people who are aware and committed to a future of responsible sourcing, this will never happen. So the more we can get the word out, the more people are aware of it, the more little shifts in action that are taken, and all of a sudden there’s a tipping point where participation becomes almost universal. Until quite recently no one wore a seatbelt when driving. Then awareness grew, legislation happened and now, for the better, most everyone buckles up. I'm committed to being in action for a world that works… for a clean environment and equality for all people. And the NDG declaration says it all.

We're not close to being truly sustainable but our job is to keep taking actions, and to continue discovering where we're not that. The golden rules are in the background, it's just a reminder to continue to be responsible.  The more we're focused on the small, incremental actions we may end up being enough to shift the whole thing.

3. What are the most pressing issues mining companies should address? Is there any particular mine project or set of mining impacts you are most concerned about?

The most concerning issue is irresponsible mercury use among artisanal miners. Many scientists feel in terms of the global threat to wellbeing that mercury pollution is second only to global warming. We are poisoning ourselves and future generations and this is not going away if we do nothing. It won't make a difference to ban mercury; it'll just go underground. We have to work with the miners and show them they can mine profitably when using safe practices and, as technologies develop, eventually eliminate mercury use. I'm excited that there are now truly innovative developments in the gravimetric separation of gold without the use of toxic chemicals.

I'm mostly focused on artisanal and small-scale mining. ASM mining, where there are no chemicals or really limited use of cyanide and mercury specifically, along with responsible tailings management, are leading the way by adopting the standards for Fairmined™ certification. We have a real positive mining model where miners are adhering to Fairmined™ standards. Other mining companies are noticing that the interest in the world is toward traceable, responsibly mined minerals and they may have some catching up to do.   

4. What would you say to other retailers who are dragging their heels in terms of committing to the Golden Rules or responsible metals sourcing?

I would ask them, “What legacy are you committed to leaving?” Most people when they get to their deathbed have some regrets and it's never a regret about not having made enough money or not having gotten a bigger boat. It's usually a regret that has to do with relationships or a contribution they wanted to make. We have an opportunity to be proud of our actions and to know that we are contributing to a safe, healthy and beautiful world for our children's children. We have that opportunity now in signing on to and upholding the Golden Rules.