JOHANNESBURG — World Gold Council executives have held talks in Johannesburg to pave the way for the introduction of a global conflict-free gold standard.
Still under discussion as a draft, the proposed standard aims to create absolute trust that the gold produced under its aegis is in no way tainted by armed conflict or human rights abuses.
“We have engaged with governments all over the world,” World Gold Council director Terry Heymann, accompanied by senior adviser Edward Bickham and consultant Justine McGuinness, told Mining Weekly Online.
The team has already held roundtable talks in South America, North America, Europe and in several other African countries, as part of a consultation process that ends in Australia next week.
“The gold mining industry takes its responsibility very seriously in ensuring that gold doesn’t fuel conflict and is working hard to develop a standard that is internationally recognised.
“I would hope by the end of the year, at the latest, there will be finality, but it does depend on what we hear through the consultation process,” Heymann said.
The draft has been developed in close collaboration with the council members, which make up the who’s who of global gold mining and include South Africa’s two top gold miners AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields, both of which have global reach.
The implementation of the conflict-free gold standard is likely to require the concomitant formalisation of market access by small-scale artisanal miners as part of separate processes, which do not fall within the council’s ambit. There are said to be more than two-million informal artisanal miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alone and their formalisation is being addressed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) guidance on responsible mineral supply from conflict areas.
The Dodd-Frank Act of the US also obliges the US’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to impose disclosure and, in some instances, auditing requirements on publicly traded companies that use tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold from the DRC and the countries adjoining it.
After missing its April, 2011, deadline, the SEC said it would meet next month, on August 22, to vote on two sets of Dodd-Frank rules.
“It’s high time that the SEC does so because it’s leaving many companies in the dark,” International Crisis Group Central African project director Thierry Vircoulon told Mining Weekly Online.
In DRC-neighbouring Rwanda, authorities last year introduced a tagging and certification-of-origin scheme to create a “clean and transparent” supply chain from mines that operate in legally insecure areas wracked by militia groups and errant army commanders, who keep an illicit grip on the minerals trade.
Despite the successful demilitarisation of a number of combatants across the DRC, the government and its international partners continue to experience problems with disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration in the North and South Kivu provinces.
“It’s a matter of telling governments very bluntly that they either create a clean supply chain from the Kivus or find themselves partly out of business,” is Vircoulon’s view.
South African-born Tinco CEO Brian Menell told Mining Weekly Online last year that while tagging and certification were tedious and expensive, their enforcement was having the desired affect in Rwanda. — Agencies