Environmental News from Europe:
- Switzerland imported 24.5 tonnes of gold in 2021, at least a fifth of which came from Brazilian Amazon states. Evidence indicates most of it is mined illegally on Indigenous lands. Illicit mining operations have resulted in major Amazon deforestation, widespread mercury poisoning and soaring violence.
- With the Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro unresponsive to the escalating crisis, an independent delegation of Indigenous people along with others travelled to Switzerland in May to plead with major gold refiners to end the importation of illicit Brazilian gold.
- This week, the refiners published a statement pledging to remove illegal gold mined within Brazilian Indigenous reserves from their supply chains. If the initiative is fully followed, experts say it could be a game changer that could undermine the, until now, lucrative illegal gold trade.
- Canada, the world’s biggest importer of gold, has made no such agreement.
Switzerland is the world’s second largest buyer of Brazilian gold (behind Canada), importing 24.5 tonnes of the precious metal in 2021. It is also home to some of the world’s leading gold refineries — Metalor, PX Précinox, Argor Heraeus, MKS Pamp, and Valcambi.
In a potentially landmark move, those refineries have just signed and made public a position statement condemning illegal gold mining and pledging “to trace and identify” the metal’s movements from its sources, potentially staunching the import of gold illegally taken from Indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon.
Also party to the statement was the Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Traders of Precious Metals (ASFCMP), which accounts for 95% of the precious metals melted and refined in Switzerland — 90% of which is gold.
According to the Swiss Federal Council, the country’s highest executive body, more than two-thirds of gold traded worldwide passes through the European nation. If the Swiss refiners fully implement their new pledge, it could be an important step towards reducing illegally extracted gold imports to Switzerland.
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