This Open Letter to Michael Rae, CEO of the Responsible Jewellery Counsel, is posted with the permission of the London Mining Network
Rio Tinto has become the first mining company to be given certification by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC).
Rio Tinto is a member of the RJC and helps to fund it. So there is a big question mark over the Council’s independence.
The certificate was awarded under dubious circumstances. Rio Tinto did not go through an audit and certification process before being accepted as the provider of the metals for the 2012 Olympic medals.
It looks as though RJC has now rushed through an audit to ensure certification in time for the Olympics.
London Mining Network has written to the RJC to object.
Open letter from London Mining Network
to Michael Rae, CEO, The Responsible Jewellery Council,
First Floor, Dudley House, 34-38 Southampton Street,
London WC2E 7HF.
18 July 2012
Dear Mr Rae,
We have learnt with dismay that the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has now certified Rio Tinto as a responsible and ethical supplier of diamonds, gold and silver, and that the RJC’s audit of Rio Tinto’s operations included its Kennecott Utah subsidiary’s Bingham Canyon mine near Salt Lake City.
The RJC must surely be aware of the number of accusations against Rio Tinto for its operations around the world, and specifically the well-publicised allegations made by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Utah Moms for Clean Air about the impact of the company’s Bingham Canyon operations on human health.
It seems extraordinary to us that an operation which is the subject of a pending lawsuit for air quality violations should be considered worthy of approval by the RJC.
Equally extraordinary is the limitation of the RJC’s audit to particular mines without taking into account the context of Rio Tinto’s global operations, which include, among many other matters of grave concern:
• problems with potentially excessive use of water, dust pollution, destruction of fragile ecosystems, violation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, destruction of local livelihoods, tax arrangements disadvantageous to the Mongolian people, and poor labour practices including sexual harassment of female workers, at its Oyu Tolgoi operations in Mongolia;
• a recent history of worker lockouts at Alma, Quebec and Boron, California, as well as a longer history of poor labour relations;
• at the Grasberg copper-gold mine in West Papua, violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, complicity in human rights violations and militarisation, and environmental destruction so bad that the Norwegian Government’s Sovereign Pension Fund disinvested from the company; • a record of serious human rights violations and criminality, including rape by company officials, and a legacy of dangerous environmental contamination at its now-closed Kelian Gold Mine in Kalimantan, Indonesia;
• conflict with local communities over pollution and destruction of livelihoods in Madagascar and Mozambique;
• concern over Rio Tinto’s latest diamond play at Bunder in India;
• and conflict with Indigenous communities over mines or proposed mines in Australia, Colombia and the USA.
We are disturbed that a body of which Rio Tinto is a member, and which it helps fund, was given the responsibility for auditing Rio Tinto’s operations, as there is a clear conflict of interest involved, and the RJC cannot be considered truly independent of the company being investigated.
We would welcome a public statement from RJC explaining the process followed in this audit and the criteria used in coming to conclusions. How are RJC’s risk and sustainability assessments constructed and how are they resourced? How much weight is given to the company’s own statements and how much genuinely independent investigation is undertaken?
We would also welcome an explanation from the RJC of why the many serious allegations against the company have been ignored and certification given despite the weight of evidence that all is not well.
Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network.