For nearly a decade some governments, jewelry industry members, and consumers have been working to ban so-called blood diamonds, which are mined in Sierra Leon and sold to help finance guerrilla fighters. But the practice of using mineral wealth to finance war is still continuing in Africa, unchecked. According to the television news magazine, “60 Minutes,” gold mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo accounts for just under one percent of the gold processed world-wide each year but brings in 300 million dollars, much of which is used to finance an ongoing civil war in DRC.
This story should be of interest to geographers who, according to Nick Clarke, are becoming more involved in research on political consumption. Their work, for example, aims to show how people form ethical positions that influence their purchasing behaviors. It also demonstrates how consumers become actors within a more global economy based on buying and selling.
Of course, action depends upon knowledge. Like diamond miners in other African countries, gold miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo are paid low wages and the work is dangerous. Unlike diamonds, however, there is little publicity, and thus little movement to cut off the market for this “blood gold.” Officials with Wal-Mart, the largest buyer of gold in the United States, say they plan to check the origin of ten percent of the gold that passes through their stores beginning next year, but they do not actually say if the company will refuse to sell products made with Congolese gold. High-end jeweler Tiffany’s does track its gold through the commodity chain; the ore in Tiffany’s jewelry comes from a single mine. Meanwhile, the Responsible Jewllery Council (sic) is working to come up with a process to determine the origin of gold destined to become jewelry.