London gold body plans expansion to bring in more artisanal metal

Artisanal miners in Sierra Leone. ( Credit: Pact/ Jorden de Haan.)

The world’s most important certifier of gold refineries said on Wednesday it wants to recognise firms that gather and refine gold dug up by small-scale miners in developing countries.

The move by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) aims to bring more gold into mainstream trade to try to improve conditions for small-scale miners.

Around 15-20 million small-scale or artisanal (ASM) miners produce roughly 700 tonnes of gold a year worth some $37 billion at current prices, mostly in Africa and South America – around 20% of all the gold mined globally.

LBMA-accredited ‘good delivery’ refineries which supply the world’s biggest banks and jewellers typically avoid this gold because of the risk of human rights abuses, pollution or criminality at mines and in the supply chain.

Working conditions for many miners are bleak and much of their gold is sold to people including smugglers and drug dealers who may have little concern for their wellbeing.

The LBMA said in a report on Wednesday that a study it commissioned to encourage the use of ASM gold recommended that it create another ‘good delivery’ list to accredit aggregators and refineries that responsibly collect gold from small-scale miners and resell the metal in bulk.

This should encourage LBMA-accredited refiners to source gold from these companies, providing a better regulated and more transparent supply chain.

“We are going to bring together a task force from across the industry and discuss how to get this going,” LBMA chief executive Ruth Crowell said.

Crowell also said the LBMA would work with governments in countries with large numbers of small-scale mines, such as Ghana and Ivory Coast, to encourage better regulatory frameworks and support for artisanal mining.

The LBMA accredits around 70 gold refineries. Its data show that these in 2020 processed around 5,600 tonnes of gold, of which 16 tonnes came from small-scale mines.

(By Peter Hobson; Editing by Barbara Lewis)


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