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CAFOD exposes dirty face of gold industry

A new CAFOD report released today exposes the real cost of gold - the environmental and social destruction that is linked to gold mining. The Catholic aid agency's report - Unearth Justice: Counting the cost of gold - reveals the dirty side of gold. It uncovers evidence of people being forced from their homes, worsening poverty and conflict over the precious metal. Cyanide and arsenic have also been found in water, while mountains and forests have been destroyed and traditional agriculture has declined. The report focuses on two countries, Honduras in Central America and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). CAFOD director Chris Bain said: "Gold is one of the most prized commodities and a symbol of wealth and power. Gold prices reached a 25-year high last month. But how often do we think about how gold reaches our high streets? Gold doesn't look quite so shiny to many people in developing countries living in and around gold mines. To them, gold often means poverty, health risks and destruction of their homes and environment. "Much of this can be blamed on the activities of multinational gold mining companies. We have to break this destructive pattern by challenging businesses to clean up their act and stop undermining the poor." The report is published today to launch CAFOD's new campaign - Unearth Justice. The campaign tackles the bitter paradox that developing countries richest in natural resources, such as oil and precious metals, are often the poorest and most prone to conflict. The campaign will call the gold industry to account and aims to change the way gold is mined. CAFOD is targeting gold mining companies as well as major national high street jewellers, calling on them to take steps towards ensuring the gold they produce, buy and sell is ethically and responsibly produced. Author of the report, CAFOD's private sector policy analyst Anne Lindsay said: "Too often those most directly affected by mining feel powerless. In Honduras, communities have been uprooted because of gold. In the past, gold has been a source of conflict and suffering in DRC. For gold to be a blessing not a curse, we have to make sure that the people of gold-rich developing countries can influence what happens to their own natural resources." CAFOD, together with partners Caritas Tegucigalpa in Honduras and Caritas Bunia in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have made specific recommendations to two companies to give local communities a greater say over how gold is mined: in Honduras, Canadian owned multinational Glamis Gold which runs the San Martin mine in the Siria Valley through their subsidiary company Entre Mares. In DRC, AngloGold Ashanti, a subsidiary of Anglo American. AGA is currently carrying out exploration work near the town of Mongbwalu in Ituri, NE DRC. To read the report see: www.cafod.org.uk