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Responsible Jewellery Council Launches Certification System

goldminingUnder development for three years, the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has launched its Certification System that will certify its members for responsible ethical, social and environmental practices in the diamond and gold jewelry supply chain.

In response, NGOs, technical experts and community representatives warned about the limitations of the industry-run system, reports Earthworks. Payal Sampat of Earthworks and the No Dirty Gold campaign, said in a press release: “Given the considerable impacts of gold mining and consumer concerns about ‘dirty’ gold, there is clearly a need for independent, third-party monitoring of the gold supply chain.”

RJC says the centerpiece of its system is the use of independent, third-party auditing to verify conformance with the RJC’s Code of Practices, which makes it “objective, fair and transparent.”

Alan Young of Canadian Boreal Initiative in Ottawa, also said in the Earthworks press release: “Hiring outside consultants or firms to audit practices does not make a process independent or third party. This is a major shortcoming of the current RJC system, and hurts its credibility and legitimacy.”

RJC says the auditor accreditation process is underway and training is currently being rolled out to RJC members through sector-specific webinars. RJC Certification is now open to every type of business in the diamond and gold jewelry supply chain from mine to retail.

As of Dec. 31, 2009, current RJC members are required to undergo independent verification by December 2011, or December 2012 if they have mining facilities. Companies that join the RJC from 2010 will need to undergo independent verification within two years of becoming members, according to the association.

RJC is now working on chain-of-custody or traceability of product.

RJC told JCK Online that it is unlikely that the group will require a certified supply chain, but said RJC may be able to individually certify members’ supply chains. The group’s CEO Michael Rae said the group will use the Forest Stewardship Council as a model.

Civil society groups also raised concerns about the content of the mining standards being proposed by RJC, which they said would allow companies to operate mines in conflict zones, allow dumping of tailings waste into lakes and deeper ocean waters in protected areas, and provide limited or no control on emissions of toxic substances to the environment, according to Earthworks.

Other issues raised by Earthworks include a lack of provisions for community consent for mining operations or resettlement and monitoring of on-the-ground impacts of individual mining operations.

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