Campaigners from Catholic aid agency CAFOD have gone to the heart of the country’s gold trade and handed in a symbolic gold paper chain representing nearly 45,000 signatures calling for an end to 'dirty gold'.
At Goldsmiths Hall in London, chair of the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) Mark Adlestone accepted the petition and spoke of the need for good practice by jewellers.
Mr Adlestone said: "I am pleased to receive this paper gold chain on behalf of NAG, as an indication of our support for the CAFOD campaign against dirty gold.
"CAFOD is expert on the issues surrounding dirty gold and cares passionately that the Golden Rules are adopted widely by the trade.
"As retail jewellers we have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that our business avoids damage to the environment and, more importantly, to communities anywhere in the world.
"We in the jewellery industry must work with NGOs like CAFOD to find solutions that are in the interests of all."
His company, the UK jewellery retailer Beaverbrooks – together with jeweller Fraser Hart - have responded to the Unearth Justice campaign and have agreed to endorse what campaigners call the Golden Rules by signing a sourcing policy.
These are part of a global campaign calling on those in the gold industry to work to ensure that mining does not destroy communities and environments in the developing world.
In the US, seven of the ten largest jewellery retailers have now pledged to work for clean gold.
CAFOD supporters are now calling on UK retailers F. Hinds, Goldsmiths, Warren James and Argos to follow the lead of Fraser Hart and Beaverbrooks, and show their support for changing the way that gold is mined by formally signing up to the Golden Rules.
CAFOD’s head of Campaigns Helen Wolfson said: "We are very encouraged by the support shown by the National Association of Goldsmiths for the Unearth Justice campaign, and by the active part they are playing by taking the lead role in ensuring that any industry standards they produce meet the baselines set out in the Golden Rules.
"I have visited the community that CAFOD works with in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where gold mining is the key to their future.
"I know that the issues we raise will not be solved overnight. Real change requires long term commitment from across the gold industry.
"CAFOD, the partners we work with and the thousands of campaigners across England and Wales will continue to call for justice for those communities."
The London hand-in is part of a nationwide Unearth Justice campaign by CAFOD. To date campaigners have handed in golden chain petitions at more than 100 jewellery stores asking companies to endorse the 12 Golden Rules.
CAFOD campaigner Ben Fenlon, aged 17, said: "What really motivated me to action was when I found out that gold companies leak cyanide into the water, because water is such a basic human resource. It shows that humanity is poisoned by greed or indifference. It really shocked me."
By publicly pledging support for the rules which call for human rights, sound environmental standards and free, prior and informed consent for affected communities, jewellers can put pressure on gold mining companies to change the way that they operate.
In a poll for CAFOD last December carried out by YouGov two out of three people (65%) said they believed gold mining companies should be responsible for limiting environmental damage caused by their operations.
The Unearth Justice campaign calls on both mining companies and UK jewellers to clean up the industry and with 80 per cent of the gold mined each year ending up in jewellery, CAFOD believes retailers can play an important part in improving standards.