NGOs Criticize Responsible Jewellery Council

A  group of NGOs has criticized the Responsible Jewellery Council, saying the group fails to include NGOs and that its mining standards fall short.

The RJC announced this week it was launching its certification system and was looking into certifying "chains of custody."

But the NGOs complained in a statement the RJC is comprised solely of members of the jewelry industry, and does not include representatives of labor, NGOs, affected communities or other civil society groups.

"There is clearly a need for independent, third-party monitoring of the gold supply chain," said Payal Sampat of Washington, DC-based Earthworks and the No Dirty Gold campaign. "Unfortunately, the RJC is a process led and governed entirely by the very industries that are to be monitored, and does not meet this need."

The group also raised concerns about the group’s mining standards, saying they would continue to let companies operate mines in conflict zones, allow the dumping of waste into rivers and offer no control on toxic emissions.

"In addition, because the system certifies companies, rather than specific operations, it does not monitor the on-the-ground impacts of individual mining operations, or allow gold to be traced back to specific mines or practices," the release complains.

The group’s release includes an endorsement of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), which is also working on these issues and includes NGOs and trade unions.

In response, RJC CEO Michael Rae sent JCK a list of NGOs that were involved in the development of RJC’s standards. He noted that the RJC is a member and is participant in IRMA.

"The RJC’s Standards Committee will review and consider all outputs that result from [IRMA]," he said. "Any resulting IRMA standards or systems could be formally recognized by RJC or incorporated into RJC’s Mining Standard."

He added that the group’s "Mining Supplement" involved three public comment periods, which drew more than 380 responses.