The No Dirty Gold Campaign is a consumer awareness program founded jointly by Oxfam and Earthworks, an environmental policy organization that focuses on mining. The campaign is designed to educate consumers about where their precious metals come from, and to encourage them to seek out retailers who sell environmentally sound gold, which is traditionally one of the dirtiest metals to mine and process. Dirty gold has a profound impact on indigenous peoples, Third World economies, women's rights, and the environment.
Gold mining's environmental impact has been well documented. In addition to disturbing the ecosystem in which a mine is located, gold is also highly polluting, thanks to the toxic chemicals used to extract it, which are often dumped into open pits or waterways. After a mine has been exhausted, the company may choose to abandon it, leaving the mess for the government to clean up. Pollution spreads through air, ground, and water, damaging the quality of life for organisms around the mine including endangered plants and animals as well as human beings.
Especially in Third World countries, gold mining is accompanied by serious human rights issues. Dirty gold is mined in extremely hazardous conditions by workers who have few rights and protections. In addition, land is frequently seized from indigenous peoples, who have nowhere to go once their native lands are taken from them. Women also suffer as a result of dirty gold, since they are rarely compensated for lost land, and gold mining tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of a wealthy few, who are usually men.
Dirty gold is also bad for Third World economies, because it is a nonrenewable resource, making mining economically unsound as well as environmentally unwise. Most mines are held by foreign corporations, so little of the wealth remains in the nation of origin, which is also expected to bear the costs in terms of environment and human health. Heavy pollution due to mining can be accompanied with a crippling cost which many nations are unable to bear, leading to bankruptcy or risky economic practices in an attempt to cope.
Retailers who participate in the No Dirty Gold Campaign agree to source their gold from environmentally sound sources, and to work together to reform the mining industry. Many retailers have joined the global efforts against dirty gold in response to consumer pressures, and the movement is rapidly growing. Retailers agree to source gold from mining companies that are willing to submit to independent audits to ensure that they do not pollute, displace native communities, infringe worker's rights, or damage delicate ecosystems. Consumers, in turn, can seek out retailers who are part of the No Dirty Gold Campaign.