The Responsible Artisanal Gold Solutions Forum (Forum), with USAID and local partners, is proud to announce several milestones, including the first conflict-free artisanal gold from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) exported to U.S. jewelers.
Forum member Sasha Lezhnev, Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said, “This gold proves that it is possible to source conflict-free, responsible gold from Congo and bring it to American consumers. That’s a very important proof of concept. Other jewelry and tech companies should begin sourcing responsible gold from Congo, and governments should enact consequences on companies that smuggle conflict gold, which disincentivizes a responsible trade.” Consumers and investors can also make a difference by encouraging companies’ involvement in conflict-free sourcing and reporting.
With support from USAID, a pilot project was implemented in South Kivu, DRC to establish a conflict-free supply chain for artisanal gold. The gold was exported by Fair Congo, processed in the U.S. by Asahi Refining, manufactured into gold earrings by Richline Group, and sold through Signet Jewelers (operating under brands such as Kay Jewelers and Zales). Mark Hanna, Chief Marketing Officer of Richline Group, stated, “As part of the Forum, we are proud to be part of assuring that responsibly sourced artisanal gold from the DRC can be trusted, ethical, and economical.”
This pilot represents a number of firsts for the artisanal gold sector:
The Forum is a multi-stakeholder, public-private partnership to address critical barriers to a legitimate artisanal gold trade in the African Great Lakes Region. Forum partners recognize that these milestones, while significant, represent first steps in the goal of building a responsible trade and market for artisanal gold from the region. The Forum’s objective is to make this project an example of good practice that is scalable, replicable, and sustainable.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), more than 95% of artisanal gold is mined illegally and smuggled out of the country. This flow of illegal gold contributes to the ongoing conflict in DRC, and results in the loss of millions of dollars of legal tax revenue annually. In this context, with support from USAID, the pilot project provided on-site technical support and training at the mine site to establish certified and responsibly sourced artisanal gold. Activities include building the capacity of miners and government officials to implement due diligence and traceability; training to improve the governance of the mining cooperative; and providing equipment to improve production, health, and safety.
A key success factor was to address downstream risk management concerns through effective due diligence. The pilot engaged Better Sourcing Program for due diligence and GeoTraceability for traceability from mine to export.
The jewelry produced from this gold, while internally tracked by supply chain partners, is not being marketed as a separate product line; rather than segregating the gold, the Forum’s goal is for parity among sources, made possible with effective implementation of due diligence. Next steps are to expand trade with responsible mines, with continued due diligence to enable integration with the global gold supply chain.
“Signet Jewelers is proud to be the Forum’s U.S. retail partner. Together, we aim to support the continuous improvement in the integrity of the global jewelry supply chain,” said David Bouffard, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Signet Jewelers. “We look forward to responsibly-sourced artisanal gold from the DRC becoming part of the mainstream gold supply chain.”
Two other efforts supporting legitimate artisanal gold production and trade in the DRC include the Just Gold project of the Canada-based NGO, IMPACT, and a pilot by Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR).