During the 2016 Olympics hosted in Brazil, officials in the country bragged about the gold and silver they used to manufacture the medals the athletes were all vying for. The silver was extracted from old mirrors and tossed out plates from x-ray machines. They said the gold was responsibly sourced and that it was free of mercury. They haled their actions as a victory for the environment.
Following suit, hundreds of well-known US companies, inclusive of Microsoft, Tesla, and Amazon, began purchasing gold from the same refinery in Brazil. The refiner, Marsam, as with all refineries, is bound by law to responsibly source all metals. Even so, widespread corruption in the industry is still prevalent in terms of forced labor and environmental atrocities.
As is their habit, The Associated Press decided to take a closer gander at Marsom’s refinery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and what they found was no great surprise. The tangled web revealed that Marsam is also processing gold by, and has direct ties to, an intermediary accused by the Brazilian government of purchasing gold illegally mined in the Amazon rainforest on Indigenous lands.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been of little help by his tendency to look the other way as huge chunks of the rainforest are carved out as landing strips. He doesn’t see the fuel, the backhoes, and the scorched earth that at one time held life. He’d rather protect his own father and other government officials who have their hands in the illegal cookie jar.
The gold mining industry is on the honor system. Miners and refineries are required by an international agreement to document where the precious metal came from. But, critics said it isn’t enforced and that there’s a whole bunch of greenwashing going on.
Mark Pieth, a criminal law professor at Switzerland’s University of Basel nailed it by saying, “There is no real traceability as long as the industry relies on self-regulation.” Pieth authored a book in 2018 called “Gold Laundering.”
Pieth made it quite clear. “People know where the gold comes from, but they don’t bother to go very far back into the supply chain because they know they will come into contact with all kinds of criminal activity.”
It was discovered how gold mined in the Amazon purposely gets mixed in with legally acquired gold to make it indistinguishable. It’s impossible to know the difference.
When gold nuggets are hauled out of the rainforest and sold to financial brokers, not much in the way of documentation is required. All a person needs to do is tell the broker that they mined the gold in legal areas of the Amazon and their word is as good as the gold they’re selling. Very few, if any, questions are ever asked.
Marsam executives won’t admit to any wrongdoing since they say all they’re doing is refining the gold for other companies, and they aren’t selling it. They refine the gold for third-party exporters and jewelers who craft their own merchandise. They don’t know where it came from. But…they do, and it’s been proven.
Who knows where the gold in that watch you’re wearing came from. And who knows how many slaves were forced to mine it? And who knows how much-protected land was destroyed. We don’t, and you don’t either. Nobody does and from the looks of things, nobody ever will.