In a move that could jeopardise China’s large scale gold mining efforts in Tibet, the London-based World Gold Council announced last week that it had drafted framework standards aimed at excluding ‘conflict gold’ from the market.
“Working together with its member companies and the leading gold refiners, it (the World Gold Council) has produced a draft framework of standards designed to combat gold that enables, fuels or finances armed conflict”, the global organisation said in a release.
The draft standard contains a three-tier framework of ‘benchmarks and prompts’ through which companies are needed to assess the adequacy of their systems and analyse their impacts upon those around them while keeping their conclusions auditable.
The World Gold Council specified ‘respect for human rights’ and ‘a credible and accessible grievance mechanism’ as principles underpinning the draft standard.
Mining operations boomed in Tibet after the opening of the Gormo-Lhasa railway line in 2006. There are reportedly around 100 mining sites in Tibet which is bound to see multi-fold increase with the Chinese government announcing plans in March last year of exploiting over 3,000 mineral reserves, potentially worth more than USD 125 billion.
Tibet has witnessed repeated protests at various mining sites by locals against the government-backed mining companies.
In 2009, following regular appeals made by Tibetans in Gyama, Central Tibet to the local authorities against large scale gold mining which was causing irrevocable damage to the ecology, armed security personnel were sent into the region to arrest and intimidate Tibetans from carrying out further protests.
In April this year Tibetans in Rebkong, northeast Tibet were arrested and imprisoned on false charges after they filed numerous grievances and complaints to the local authorities and to the central government against a mining company digging for gold in the upper reaches of Rebkong area.
Mr Zhaoxue Sun, chairman of China Gold International Resources which holds large shares in Tibet’s gold mines, though, maintained that they were following ethical mining practices in Tibet.
In his statement at the company’s annual general meeting held in Vancouver on June 14, Mr Sun said that the company only intended to mine in “politically stable” areas. When quizzed about the widespread uprisings in Tibet in March 2008, Executive Vice-President Jerry Xie feigned ignorance and responded that the political and human rights situation in Tibet was “harmonious” and there were no such uprisings.
The World Gold Council in its release invited interested parties including governments, NGOs, end-users and other participants in the gold supply chain to review the draft standards and to provide feedbacks by September 1.