Jewelers Pledge to Protect Alaskan Watershed

Five of the nation’s leading jewelry retailers—Tiffany & Co., Ben Bridge Jeweler, Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, and Leber Jeweler, Inc.—pledged their support to permanently protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale metal mining, including the proposed Pebble gold mine, non-governmental organization Oxfam International said Tuesday.

The retailers, who had $2.2 billion in sales in 2006, took this step at the invitation of local Alaskans, who seek to protect wild salmon, clean water, and traditional Alaskan ways of life from the damaging effects of industrial metal mines.

“I am pleased to stand with others in the jewelry industry today in announcing our support for protecting Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale mining,” said Jon Bridge, Co-CEO/general counsel of Seattle-based Ben Bridge Jeweler. “As retail jewelers, we want to be able to tell our customers that the precious metals we use are mined responsibly—that the materials used in the jewelry they purchase have been mined in environmentally friendly ways, respectful of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and the communities that depend on it.”

The Pebble mine is highlighted in a new report released today by the No Dirty Gold consumer campaign led by NGOs EARTHWORKS and Oxfam America. The report, “Golden Rules: Making the Case for Responsible Mining,” documents the toll of irresponsible mining on people, water, and wildlife at a time when soaring metals prices are driving new mining development globally. The report describes human rights violations and environmental concerns at metals mines in the United States and around the world.

The retailers are among a group of 28 jewelry retailers, representing 23 percent of U.S. jewelry sales, who have endorsed the No Dirty Gold campaign’s “Golden Rules”—human rights and environmental criteria for mining. Today’s announcement takes those commitments a step further.

“Some of the world’s leading jewelers have recognized that the Bristol Bay watershed is a treasure worth protecting. We applaud their principled position and commitment to not source metals from areas of high conservation value,” said Payal Sampat of EARTHWORKS.

The proposed Pebble mine is backed by the UK-based Anglo American, one of the world’s largest metals mining companies, and Canadian firm Northern Dynasty Minerals. The Bristol Bay watershed, where the proposed mine would be located, supports a wild salmon fishery—which is supports the state’s economy and the livelihood of many Alaska Native communities.

“We want to express a sincere thank you to these jewelry companies,” said Bobby Andrew, a spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of the Land), an association of eight Alaska Native corporations. “The proposed Pebble mine threatens the wild salmon fishery that has sustained the region’s economy and our people for generations.”