A strategic industry across Africa, Latin America and Asia, the coloured gemstone trade and production contains a complex set of sustainability issues - social and environmental, relating to health, safety, land degradation, and conflict. Yet the opportunities linked to a more transparent, sustainable and equitable industry are manifold.
The coloured gemstones’ global industry accounts for around USD 10 billion per year, with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) producing some 80% of total global output. ASM is increasingly important for the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
However, the incursion of ASM activities in rich biodiversity areas and specifically in some established protected areas is resulting in increasing pressures and threats to the conservation of ecosystems.
In 2013, RESP established the International Working Group on Coloured Gemstones (IWG-CG) to contribute to the development of international standards for the industry and demonstrate that more responsible practices are possible to the industry-at-large. At the same time, it promotes cross-sector cooperation between the fashion and cosmetics industry to improve land management strategies and tools to advance conservation efforts in and around mining sites.
The IWG-CG’s scope of work covers five main areas: Traceability, working conditions, mining restrictions in protected areas, environmental impact assessment, environmental remediation and restoration.
Members of the IWG-CG have agreed to the development of an initial number of pilot projects with the objective of field testing the tools, methodologies and indicators that will be developed.
The projects will subsequently be analysed to identify commonalities across gemstones, ecosystems and industries that can support scaling and replication of best practices and thus contribute to the establishment of field tested and effective standards at the international level.