You may have heard people using and/or selling “ethical” or “eco-friendly” gold. What does that mean exactly?
There are a few different types of gold on the market, the main ones being called “eco-friendly”, “ethical”, “recycled/reclaimed” and “dirty”. Here is a quick overview of their impact on the environment.
Eco-friendly gold is mined with minimal disruption to the environment and doesn’t use hazardous chemicals for extraction. This type of mining usually has programs for the restoration of the native ecosystem where the extraction takes place.
Ethical gold is also mined and recovered in a responsible manner but it does use hazardous chemicals such as mercury or cyanide, although the treatment of these chemicals and leftovers are managed safely. Ethical gold has no illegal operations or environmentally unsound practices. Labour conditions are good and there is no child labour or gender inequality. It has a transparent supply chain and has no contribution to armed conflicts.
Recycled or reclaimed gold has been previously refined. It is 100% environmentally friendly since it is not mined. It comes mostly from post-consumer jewellery and items, but also from gold-bearing products, scrap and waste metals.
Dirty gold may come from environmentally unsound practices, poor labour conditions, child labour and human rights violations. This gold is mined in a way that is harmful to the environment and it lacks transparency in the supply chain.
Gold mining is better for the environment now than it has ever been, but it will never be fully sustainable because it is a mineral that goes through an extraction process. No matter how we look at it, holes will need to be dug and trees, grass, flowers, etc destroyed in order to extract this precious mineral.
Presently, gold is being mined and extracted faster than the planet can make it. That means that one day, it will be completely gone but that day is far off. So when someone tells you gold is rare and getting scarce, you can reassure them by telling them we have only scratched the surface around the world in mining the gold that the planet holds in its belly.
Gold mining does use water laced with chemicals, for the most part, but federal environmental regulators require that this brackish water be filtered to be cleaner than mountain spring water before it is released into streams.
The price of gold is driven by supply and demand. When too much is available, the price drops, which makes gold mining more expensive. As long as people are willing to pay higher and higher prices for gold, gold mining companies will continue to extract it.
Some jewellers, such as ourselves at Aeron E. King Goldsmith Ltd., choose to work solely with ethically sourced gold, including recycled gold. Our socially conscious consumers appreciate the fact that we know where the gold and gemstones we put in their unique custom-made piece comes from.