The classical Egyptians thought of gold as “the skin of the gods”; only kings were allowed to approach golden artifacts. The Romans managed to acquire gold from throughout their whole empire by putting slaves and prisoners of war to work in mines.
The Incas forged gold into artifacts used for ceremonial purposes. For the Incas, gold merely had a cultural, and no economic value, and represented the holy masculine symbol for the sun. Hence, it wasn’t the economy, but the cultural/religious identity that suffered a huge blow when the Spaniards pillaged Inca temples filled with golden artifacts during the conquista.
Ever since gold obtained an economic trading value, this cultural meaning has been subordinate. For centuries, gold has been the cause of wars, mass migration and the rise and fall of civilizations.
Now that gold has been an investment product for quite some time, the relative scarceness, geo-political turmoil, and the current economical situation have made the gold price sevenfold during the last decade alone. This “booming” of the gold price caused high short-term profits in favor of mining multinationals and long term damage to the local communities and ecosystems. These developments show that Latin-Americans yet again have to fear pillaging by their colonizers, ages after the last conquista. Given these human right violations and the environmental distress caused by the settlement of western multinationals in the south over the last years, we can rightfully speak of recolonization or “A second gold rush”.
There’s only one rule: be the first to strip bare the natural resources – as fast as possible. The governments eagerly distribute concessions to mining giants under the cloak of attracting foreign investors to rebuild the country. In reality, these multinationals return to their home country with the large profits, and the mined country is left with nothing but environmental damage and homeless locals.
In 2004, 31 percent of the land in Honduras had already been divided among mining concessions. After hurricane Mich, in 1998, the government wanted to attract foreign investors to rebuild the country. Licenses and concessions were distributed, and export duties were drastically lowered. Opponents have been advocating for years for a new mining law to control these practices.
The UN Brundtland Report, published in 1987, states that sustainable development is development that meets the essential needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Over exploitation of renewable resources is always unsustainable. Gold is a luxury that doesn’t meet any essential human needs. The context in which gold is acquired, however, destroys the access to essential needs such as clean drinking water, a roof above one’s head, the right of free speech, and the access to unpolluted food for many local communities. The responsibility for these extremely unsustainable practices not only lie with the people extracting the gold from the soil. The responsibility is with the consumer, too – related to the old desire for gold, engrained in our society. This means it’s consumer power that can bring change.
The focus of the Goud:eerlijk (honest gold) campaign will be the problems of metal exploitation in general, and gold in particular. As consumers, industries, financial institutions, it is us in the global North that drive demand for gold from the South. What this campaign aims at is then as follows:
← Increase awareness: people are insufficiently aware of the social and ecological impact of gold mining.
← Encourage the non-governmental sector, the jewellery sector, the industrial sector and the monetary sector to take their responsibility, pull together and bring sensible alternatives to the market in order to stimulate sustainable trade and international solidarity. We strive for a win-win situation for all parties: both for the consumer and the industrial, monetary and jewelry sector in the North, as well as for the affected people in the South.