Here's the group I met with... I am fourth in from the right.
I am not making this up. Here’s a hopeful story of a project that actually benefits the environment.
A bit of background first. Jewelry is notoriously unique in today’s consumer culture in a way that few consider: the astonishing split between its symbolism and sourcing. Though a wedding ring may represent commitment, love and community, its sourcing creates just the opposite. Over the last few decades, millions have died in wars funded by diamonds, and gold funds conflicts, pollutes watersheds, and destroys indigenous cultures.
In California, the legacy of the gold rush is the genocide and environmental catastrophe. A hundred thousand tribal people were killed, and nineteen million pounds of mercury from old mines currently drain into the watersheds of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
This past June, I came back from a small meeting in Berkeley sponsored by my organization, Fair Jewelry Action, Ethical Metalsmiths and Sierra Fund.
A group representing government, a mining company, tribes, environmentalists and jewelers met to lay the ground work for a radical collaboration and heal the legacy.
Machine that removes mercury from sand.
Perhaps as much as seventy-five percent of California’s gold remains in the ground, and much of it still washes down the rivers. Along the banks of the Yuba are tailings from old mines that contain a lot of gold and mercury.
The mining company at our meeting will remove both without using any chemicals. From the gold sales, the riparian area around the river will be restored to its natural habitat. An additional premium on this “eco-gold”, marketed by pioneer ethical jewelers, will fund the efforts of Native people to bring the salmon back up the river. Environmental organizations will support this initiative and the efforts of ethical jewelers to market it.
Machinery from the old empire mine in California.
The project is still in the planning phase. We are working as advisors to the Sierra fund in support of what their project. This is an astonishing example of a new type of alliance with the ultimate goal of creating a transparent precious metal supply chain that is actually regenerative to the environment.
Buy a wedding ring and restore salmon habitat at the same time!