The search for gold can be very harmful for the environment and for salmon, whose natural habitat is damaged by miners. Apple uses gold in all its devices and has chosen to obtain it only from miners who, after the mining operations, take care of the restoration and improvement of the land, joining the Salmon Gold program, carried out by the environmental protection organization Resolve.
Apple explained this choice of respect for the environment – also embraced by the jeweler Tiffany & Co. – and its consequences with an official statement in the Cupertino newsroom.
There are hundreds of small and large placer mining operations in Alaska actively producing gold in the US. Placer mining sites sit along creeks and streams, giving miners the chance to re-mine for any nuggets or fine gold left over from the Yukon’s Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s.
Meanwhile, since 1991, 12 Pacific salmon runs have been listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These routes that salmon use to make their run to their spawning beds each year are often adjacent to placer mining sites.
But in the pursuit of the metals, you see big scars on the landscape that make the presence of salmon rarer even in the 12 Pacific salmon runs, the favorite streams of the salmon listed by the Endangered Species Act.
The causes for the ESA classification are not limited to mining. Add logging, urbanization, record wildfires and landslides in the region, and salmon runs don’t stand a chance. But RESOLVE, a nonprofit organization tackling some of the planet’s most critical challenges through innovative, unexpected partnerships, wants to fix that.
Their proposal: Combine re-mining with restoration to improve the streams and open them back up for salmon, grayling and other fish species to return.
Since RESOLVE first introduced the Salmon Gold partnership in 2017, the organization is connecting local placer miners, environmentalists and government agencies in order to course correct the damage done from historic mining in the region. Apple — who uses small amounts of gold in electronic components throughout its products — and global luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. will source gold from these miners who have committed to restore and improve the land they’re operating on when they’re done.
“As we continue to increase our use of recycled materials, we’re seeking out innovative ways to source gold responsibly,” says Paula Pyers, Apple’s head of Supplier Responsibility. “Partnering with Tiffany, a pioneer in sustainable sourcing, as well as RESOLVE ensures Salmon Gold can be an example of how the industry can evolve.”
As the industry has become more aware of their impact on the environment, placer miners in Alaska and the Yukon no longer use chemicals like mercury to shift gold out from other sediment on their sites.
This fall, Salmon Gold will enter Apple’s supply chain and be traceable from mine to refiner using blockchain technology.
To date, RESOLVE has secured restoration plans with three miners in Alaska and the Yukon, with several more under consideration for next summer. As the mining season comes to a close, the organization projects over 1,000 ounces of the partnership’s trademarked Salmon Gold this year, increased from last summer’s 25 ounces.
Salmon Gold’s partners will continue fine-tuning the project so that one day it may provide a blueprint for others to change the way they mine. In the meantime, Edzerza will continue scouting in the Yukon and British Columbia as RESOLVE looks for new partners.