UK and USA retailers join boycott against Alaska's 'dirty gold'

| 3rd November 2010
Sockeye salmon
Sockeye salmon on the Funnel in Katmai National Park, Alaska (Photo by Ben Knight)
Leading jewellery outlets including Fraser Hart, Tiffany & Co and Beaverbrooks say they won't use gold from London-based Anglo America's proposed mine in the Alaskan wilderness

Jewellery retailers across the UK and US with combined sales of more than £3.5 billion have pledged to reject any gold from an Anglo American mine that threatens Alaska's wild salmon industry.

Anglo American and its Canadian partner Northern Dynasty Minerals plan to excavate a gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which will involve an open pit with infrastructure stretching over 30 square miles and an 86 mile long access road.

Local campaigners say the mine will destroy one of the most valuable wild sockeye salmon runs on earth and generate up to 10 billion tonnes of contaminated mine waste. The tailings lakes (made up of waste rubble and fluids) alone would bury two valleys.

Globally, wild salmon fisheries are in drastic decline. Yet the Bristol Bay watershed, with its intact rivers and undeveloped landscape, still supports a thriving, wild fishery. The salmon spawning grounds have fed countless generations of Alaskan Natives and today also support a healthy sustainable fishing industry worth $320 million a year and 12,500 jobs.

Now, in what campaigners say is an 'unprecented' move, 50 jewellers, including the UK's leading independent outlet Fraser Hart, have agreed not to sell gold from the mine.

Fraser Hart CEO Noel Coyle said mining of precious metals presented too great a risk to communities and the environment. 'We support protection of Bristol Bay from large-scale mining, and will not source gold that comes at the expense of the communities and salmon fisheries of Bristol Bay.'

Instead of gold and copper mining, the salmon fishery in Bristol Bay provided the 'best opportunity to benefit Southwestern Alaskan communities in a sustainable way,' said Tiffany CEO Michael Kowalski. 'We most look to other places to responsibly source our gold,' he added.

Useful links

Full list of jewellers who have signed pledge
Our Bristol Bay - Campaign group
Nunamtu Aulukestai - Campaign group for Alaska Native people

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