The London 2012 Olympic
Games were to be the “greenest”, most sustainable games ever.
According to the Sustainable Sourcing Code of the London Organising Committee
for the Olympic Games, sustainability was to be taken into account at
every decision-making level.
In spite of this, Rio
Tinto supplied the gold for the gold medals for the
London 2012 Olympic Games. Rio Tinto is a British-Australian mining corporation
with a bad reputation worldwide: with over 8000 complaints pending,
including allegations of rape, violence, forced evictions and military
Rio Tinto was certified by
the Responsible Jewellery Council two weeks before they were selected to supply
the gold for the 2012 Olympic medals, without an independent third
party audit carried out by a neutral and non-governmental party.
Most of the
gold that was used for the medals at the London 2012 Olympics can be traced
back to Rio Tinto's Kennecott Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, USA. The
Kennecott mine is an open-pit mine, which looks like a crater in
the earth. Accounting for 0,25% of the jobs in the area but over 30% of
the pollution, the Kennecott mine is Utah’s number one emitter of
harmful toxins such as mercury and lead, as well as dust. It is
estimated that between 100 and 200 Utahns die prematurely every year as
a direct result of the air pollution caused by the mine.
of the gold used for the 2012 London Olympic medals came from Rio Tinto's Oyu
Tolgoi mine in Mongolia. It is located in the Gobi desert, a vulnerable
ecosystem where water is scarce. However, the Oyu Tolgoi mine is
pumping thousands of litres of water per second from
the nearby Gunii Hooloi aquifer, and already, groundwater levels are
depleting. Local pastoralists are also losing access to pastures and water,
without proper compensation. Furthermore, they are not properly educated on the health
hazards associated with large-scale open-pit mining, while concentrations
of dust are already increasing in the air.
Rio Tinto donated all the
4700 medals to the Olympic Games in 2012, in addition to paying sixteen million
American dollars as a sponsor.
The Olympic Committee for
the London 2012 games claimed that all sponsors and partners would have
to abide by strict social, environmental and ethical guidelines. It is
irresponsible, then, that Rio Tinto was chosen to supply the gold medals for
the games. We request that at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016,
no medals that are sponsored, or contain gold extracted by, Rio Tinto or any
other company using large-scale open pit mining, be awarded. This is
significant not only to ensure a positive image of the Olympic Games, but
also to support millions of people worldwide who are living with the
adverse consequences of large-scale open-pit mining.
We would suggest a few alternatives to
traditional gold medals:
1. Use less gold per medal. The gold medals in London
2012 were the largest in history. There is no need for medals to grow even
larger: their symbolic value will be appreciated even when size and
volume are reduced. We are aware that the gold medals in 2012 contained 6%
gold and 92,5% silver. However, substituting gold with silver is not an
alternative, as silver is often mined under similarly ecologically and
socially destructive circumstances as gold.
2. Use recycled gold. Supplies of
gold “above ground” – extracted in the past – are in fact larger than the
quantity of gold that remains underground. What is more, 1 kilogramme
of e-waste, such as old computers and cell phones, contains more gold than one
kilo of ore extracted from mines. It makes sense, therefore, to support
initiatives that recycle this vast quantity of gold available to us
3. Use Fairtrade gold. Fairtrade gold is mined in
small-scale, artisanal gold mines where working conditions and the environment
are taken into consideration. While no alternative to the problem of
large-scale mining, Fairtrade gold is the most social and sustainable
option available for newly extracted gold.
Supported by GOUD:EERLIJK?, CATAPA, London Mining Network, Oyu Tolgoi
Watch, Gobi Soil, Utah Moms for Clean Air, Wildearth Guardians, UK Tar Sands Network