Conflict gold, poor mining conditions, and the illicit trade of gold must not be allowed to proliferate. This is why Clean Mining, part of the Clean Earth Technologies Group, has developed Clean Gold™ — a global industry standard accreditation programme for gold produced to the highest social, environmental, and economic sustainability standards.
Conflict gold remains a major obstacle to peace and a driver of the black market economy in many countries. Evidence has shown that conflict gold provides a source of income to armed actors such as drug cartels, criminal syndicates, and rebel groups who terrorise factions of society with impunity. 1 This illicit gold trade has also funded the procurement of weapons and ammunition in conflict zones. 2
Conflict gold products are often produced in poor labour conditions at artisanal mines, and the extraction process for conflict gold usually involves the use of toxic mercury. In a 2015 paper published by the Enough Project, artisanal miners in Congo were working by hand with pick-axes and shovel, largely illegally, and the extracted gold was smuggled abroad easily through briefcases to international gold trading and refining hubs. 3 As the price of gold shot up during the coronavirus pandemic, further investigative journalism by the Wall Street Journal has also uncovered a surge in the trade for conflict gold in Africa. 4
Collective action needs to be taken to tackle the trade in conflict gold. It will not be easy, but the global community cannot afford a cavalier approach to resolving this issue because unsustainable mining practices and the resultant socio-economic cost of the illicit gold trade are leaving an indelible stain on humanity’s greatest store of value. Policy reforms to address the conflict gold issue must focus on ensuring that corrupt actors in the illicit gold trade face consequences for their actions. 5
Improved artisanal mining conditions can be generated through the enforcement of appropriate regulations, which will also increase the volume of gold traded through the legal system. This will aid the development of conflict-free mining and the formalisation of ethically sourced gold in mining communities, which in turn supports the creation of robust livelihood programmes and conditions such as microfinance. When armed actors withdraw from mines, mining communities can reap the benefits of cleaner, sustainable, and responsible mining.
And then there is also the question of gold provenance.
Often, consumers of conflict gold products are unable to ascertain the source of their gold because it is deliberately obscured to prevent traceability. But informed and enlightened consumers today are demanding proper accounting, reporting, and disclosure standards. As is the case with blood diamonds, no self-respecting individual will want to be associated with a product that has links to illicit trade, harmful socio-environmental practices, or armed conflict.
Miners, jewellers, manufacturers, and consumers who procure Clean Gold™ products will enjoy the prestige that comes with a premium and ethically sourced gold product on the market. Certification of Clean Gold™ is only available for gold produced with Clean Mining’s innovative extraction technology, or precious metals that meet Clean Mining’s ethical supply standards.
Clean Gold™ can be produced by artisanal miners and large-scale mining operators, and consumers of Clean Gold™ products can be certain that their gold is cyanide-free and mercury-free. Learn more about Clean Gold™ at Clean Mining today.
 Under the auspices of armed conflict, there may be a persistence of resource-fueled criminal networks whose activities may cause greater probabilities of conflict relapse. See, for more on the subnational realities of armed conflict and the links of armed conflict with gold mining activities, Angelika Rettberg and Juan Felipe Ortiz-Riomalo, “Golden Opportunity, or a New Twist on the Resource–Conflict Relationship: Links Between the Drug Trade and Illegal Gold Mining in Colombia,” World Development 84 (2016): pp. 82-96, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.03.020.
 Mckenzie F. Johnson, Rebecca L. Laurent, and Benjamin Kwao, “Constructing a Crisis: The Effect of Resource Curse Discourse on Extractive Governance in Ghana,” The Extractive Industries and Society 7, no. 3 (2020): pp. 965-974, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2020.04.013.
 See, for more on conflict gold in Congo, Fidel Bafilemba and Sasha Lezhnev, “Congo’s Conflict Gold Rush: Bringing Gold into the Legal Trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Congo’s Conflict Gold Rush (Enough Project, April 21, 2015), https://limacharlienews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/April-29-2015-Congo-Conflict-Gold-Rush-reduced.pdf.
 Record amounts of gold has been dug from artisanal mines in Eastern Congolese conflict zones. The gold has been smuggled across the porous border with Uganda and stamped with fake certifications before being shipped internationally. These conflict gold products are difficult to trace. For more, see, Nicholas Bariyo and Joe Parkinson, “Under Cover of Coronavirus Lockdown, a Booming Trade in Conflict Gold,” The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company, July 9, 2020), https://www.wsj.com/articles/under-cover-of-coronavirus-lockdown-a-booming-trade-in-conflict-gold-11594285200?mod=e2fb.
 The implementation of policy reforms are a challenge for many developing nations. Some countries are experiencing serious post-conflict development concerns as there are shortages in human capacity, and good governance, accountability, and transparency in reporting standards will undoubtedly take considerable time to develop. For more, see, Roy Maconachie, “Diamonds, Governance and ‘Local’ Development in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone: Lessons for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa?,” Resources Policy 34, no. 1-2 (2009): pp. 71-79, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resourpol.2008.05.006.