UN expert warns of 'blood gold'

2010-09-27 13:58

Berlin- A UN expert on the Democratic Republic of Congo warned a precious metals conference on Monday that the industry faced a "public relations disaster" unless it tackled the problem of "blood gold".

"There is a high risk that any artisanally mined gold coming out of the country is 'blood gold,'" Gregory Mthembu-Salter, a member of the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, said.

The term "blood gold" is used in the wider sense of so-called "blood minerals" to describe resources mined in a disputed region to finance conflict, war lords or an insurgency.

"Because of the lack of supply-chain traceability thereafter, that means that all or any of the gold you deal with could be termed 'blood gold'," he said at the start of the two-day gathering of industry professionals in Berlin.

"In short, the gold industry has a major moral and public relations disaster on its hands. Already activists have targeted the electronics and technology industry because of their opposition to so-called 'blood tin'.

"Do not imagine that the gold industry can be far behind."

He said that the industry, which is currently enjoying record prices for gold and silver, needs first to "acknowledge that it has a problem" and to certify properly where gold comes from.

This would be along the lines of the Kimberly Process, established in 2003, which aims to certify where rough diamonds were mined in order to ensure that they are not "blood diamonds" feeding conflict in the world's hot spots.

The central African country is plagued by instability and is ranked among the world's 20 most corrupt nations by governance watchdog Transparency International.

It also has huge reserves of resources used in a whole range of goods used by consumers in the wider world, drawing intense interest by foreign governments and firms.

But gold is the country's "main conflict mineral," Mthembu-Salter said.