If you wear a gold ring on your finger, write with a gold-tipped fountain pen, or have gold in your portfolio, then chances are you're connected
to child labor in Africa.
Here's a disturbing article by Rukmini Callimachi and Bradley S. Kalpper of the Associated Press:
These hardscrabble miners include many thousands of children. They work long hours at often dangerous jobs in hundreds of primitive mines scattered through the West African bush. Some are as young as 4 years old. [...]
Wait - but surely you didn't buy any gold from Africa, right? Wrong.
Precisely which products contain child-mined gold, no one can say for sure. Unlike a diamond, gold does not keep its identity on its tortuous journey from mine to market. It passes through 10 or more hands. And when it is melted, usually several times, and mixed with gold from other sources, its address is effectively erased.
Jewelers and retailers that buy gold through UBS include Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA, the firm that makes Montblanc pens, Piaget's luxury watches and the jewelry of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Gold processed by Metalor has been used by these brands as well as in discount jewelry sold at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and luxury jewelry sold by Tiffany & Co.
These companies expressed concern about child labor and frustration that they can't certify their products are free of it. Because bush mines, where child labor is ubiquitous, supply a fifth of the world's gold, the companies realize their supply lines may well be compromised.
(Photo: Rukmini Callimachi / AP)