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Gold miners begin talks on green code Environmental Standards

Financial Times (London, England)

June 28, 2006

The gold mining sector has started talks with social and environmental activists on a "green" code for an industry that has for decades been one of their prime targets.

The two sides have fiercely opposed each other, with miners arguing that they are injecting money into relatively poor communities where unemployment is high and welfare is low.

In turn, environmentalists claim miners are doing this by adhering to minimal environmental standards, which has resulted in some cases in the pollution of local water supplies.

Lobbyists also claim miners only reinvest a tiny amount of the money they make from exploiting the gold resource.

"We are keen to work with the non-government organisations to find a solution to these issues, and if we come up with an agreement it is going to be better for everybody," said Pierre Lassonde, the president of NewmontMining, one of the world's largest gold mining companies. "We will have gold that is certified by the NGOs, and they will be happy that we are working to standards that they have help set."

Mr Lassonde said gold miners and NGOs had a first meeting on the prospect of "green" gold in Vancouver earlier this month.

The mining industry is conducting the talks through the International Council for Mining andMetals, an industry group.

The Newmont president said the goal was to have each gold mine certified if it adhered to the standards set between the NGOs and the miners.

This in turn could by used by the gold jewellery sector to market gold that came from environmentally friendly mines. Newmont has been subject to protests by environmentalists, especially at its gold mine in Indonesia.

Mr Lassonde said similar schemes have been achieved in the forestry and fishing industries. In the mining sector, diamond miners have worked with NGOs on "conflict diamonds". However, any agreement between gold miners and NGOs will take years to achieve.

"I can't see any agreement for at least two or three years. There are a lot of issues to discuss, and we are far apart with some people on certain matters," said Mr Lassonde.

Environmentalists are concerned about the use of mercury in alluvial gold mining, which represents about 5 per cent of annual gold output and is concentrated mainly in Latin America where there are cases of mercury poisoning in rivers.

The use of cyanide is also a contentious issue for NGOs, as the chemical is widely used by the industry to strip gold from rock.Cyanide also pollutes local water tables.

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