Illegal gold is the most lucrative way for drug cartels, terrorist groups, arms traffickers, the mafia, unscrupulous bankers as well as international gold traders and brokers to launder money because, contrary to cocaine, gold that’s “legal” looks exactly like illegal gold. Consumers participate at the top of the money laundering chain when they purchase gold watches and jewelry from luxury shops, unknowingly contributing to deforestation, pollution and violence; ecocide and ethnocide in indigenous territories.
Since 2007, illegal Gold has taken the place of drugs as the principal income source for organized crime and the growing demand for gold has generated a violent illicit commerce more difficult to track than drugs. These brutal actors have infiltrated every aspect of the supply chain from extorting the gold miners prospecting in muddy ponds up through bribing gold traders, mining officials, customs officers, smelters and refineries. Banks and the luxury goods industry often look the other way and claim not to know the criminal source of the gold.
Criminal groups and drug cartels oversee gold mining operations, buy blood gold with the illicit cash proceeds from their activities, falsifying documents to sell it through a shell company that contacts a refinery in the US or Europe which buys the gold and wires “legal” money to a bank account. Finally the now untraceable gold is bought by Cartier and others. Blood gold is fashioned into luxury jewelry and sold in opulent boutiques in the world’s major cities while indigenous peoples in the world’s rainforests face ecological devastation and disease from gold mining in their territories.
Over 25 thousand gold miners are invading Brazil’s Yanomami Indigenous Territory, destroying the forest and contaminating the soil and the rivers. Gold prospectors are the main vector of Covid19 in indigenous lands and a Yanomami teenager from a village on the Uraricoara river, which is ravaged by gold miners, died on April 10th of coronavirus. As of July 2nd, there are five confirmed and three suspected Yanomami deaths from COVID-19 as well as 188 confirmed cases of the virus and 17 suspected cases. Yanomami leaders are voicing their fears of genocide and pointing to the gold industry as the cause.
President Bolsonaro has been supporting mining projects in indigenous lands since his electoral campagne and maintains that illegal gold miners should be legalized. However, on July 3rd, a federal court ordered the Brazilian government to implement a plan in order to expel the thousands of illegal gold miners from the Yanomami indigenous territory to limit the propagation of coronavirus.
Even if Bolsonaro’s administration doesn’t decide to appeal the judgement and complies, deploying the army and agents from the FUNAI to carry out the eviction of gold miners, there is no guarantee that the miners will stay away. Historically, in the nine countries that make up the Amazon region, armies and police have tried to stop gold miners from going into indigenous lands, but the miners return after the soldiers leave.
The primary use for gold – approximately 75% of the gold dug out of the earth yearly, is jewelry, watches and other useless status symbols sold by the luxury goods industry. The frenzy for owning and wearing gold adornments is the incentive for environmental destruction and the degradation of indigenous lives by gold miners as well as organized crime, not just in the Amazon, but around the globe.
The Cartier Foundation was closed because of the pandemic but the speeches and accolades could be heard online. It has reopened and will be promoting “The Yanomami Struggle” exhibition through September 10th.
It’s easy to be deluded by the museum-like façade of the Cartier Foundation as they host “The Night of Uncertainty” to inaugurate the exhibition “The Yanomami Struggle ” with Yanomami leaders speaking about creating partnerships with people in Europe to protect their rainforest. Once you’ve clicked on Cartier.com and scrolled past the gold jewelry, gold watches and accessories, you can click on “Fondation Cartier” in the lower corner to read these astounding, greenwashing lines: “These times give us the opportunity to explore subjects we find relevant, such as the environment or the defense of indigenous peoples, and to bring them into focus again […] or soon, as a tribute to trees, those great protagonists of the living world.” and, scrolling further down there’s “Night of Uncertainty – Watch The Night of the Yanomami, available now in video.”
It becomes evident that the Yanomami spokesmen, the NGO Survival and others involved in this project have made an alliance with the devil when you read this interview by Caroline Lebrun with the Cartier Foundation’s General Director Hervé Chandès:
“To give us an idea, what are the operating costs required by an establishment like this?
The Foundation is private, entirely funded by Cartier for its communications. To give a broad estimate, the general budget – operating and programming – varies around five million euros.
What relationship does the Foundation have with the Cartier company?
It is a very close, simple and structured relationship. The Foundation has a mission to fulfill for which it has been entrusted and specifications to be respected. The Foundation reports regularly on its activities to the company with which it works hand in hand. We maintain close relations with Cartier and its foreign subsidiaries, particularly in the field of communication.”
As one of the speakers at the “The Night of Uncertainty” puts it: “This is the ultimate episode of the conquest of the Americas. The accumulation of gold permitted Europe to develop. We must mobilize to avoid the disappearance of indigenous peoples.”
Clearly, the Cartier Foundation is using the pretense of concern for the Yanomami as a sales strategy for the Cartier luxury gold company that created the foundation that they work with hand in hand. This allows the Cartier company to associate art and philanthropy with their luxury brand in the minds of the public. But putting “Art” in the foreground and attempting to push “Gold” into the background won’t work unless you, too, are willing to make a pact with the devil. Would you enjoy wearing gold if your garden or town was destroyed and your water supply contaminated in order to extract it, or if your children had developmental problems because of mercury poisoning? Me neither.
How do you choose to express your love for someone – with hundreds of tons of uprooted rainforest trees and toxic waste in rivers? Yes, hundreds of tons of soil must be mined and mixed with dozens of tons of environmental pollutants that contaminate indigenous lands for that one special gold ring…
It’s up to us to say NO to Gold!