“Man’s folly hath enhanced the value of gold and silver because of their scarcity; whereas nature, like a kind parent, hath freely given us the best things, such as air, earth, and water, but hath hidden from us those which are vain and useless.” Thomas More, “Utopia“, book II – 1516
Systematic European conquest and colonization of the Americas began in 1492 and is ongoing. The compelling motivation was then, and continues to be, exploitation. The ascension of wealth in Europe depended on plundered gold, silver and other riches at the expense of the degradation of nature and the subjugation of indigenous peoples…
The NGO Survival proclaims: We fight for tribal peoples’ survival. We stop loggers, miners, and oil companies from destroying tribal lands, lives and livelihoods across the globe. We lobby governments to recognise indigenous land rights. We document and expose the atrocities committed against tribal people and take direct action to stop them.”
I did volunteer work for Survival France in the ’90s and early 2000s at periods when I had returned to France from time among the Yanomami in Venezuela and Brazil and thought at first that Survival was doing the right thing.
I spent a lot of time collecting signatures on printouts of Survival petitions for indigenous rights (before the era of internet petitions) in different parts of the world, including thumbprints from Yanomami and signatures from rainforest peoples, illiterate, who said to me that they “didn’t have a signature.” When I told them that if they agreed with the petition project they could create a signature for themselves, they gave the notion some thought then carefully signed.
The Curripaco community in Guachapana, along the Orinoco, asked me to create a petition to get rid of the gold miners from Colombia who terrorized them on the way to illegal gold mining sites on the Yapacana tepui.
I spent time with Survival France near the Brazilian embassy in Paris demonstrating against the governments of Brazil, starting with that of Fernando Collor de Mello. I began to consider that perhaps informing global consumers about the ravages of gold mining, logging, and ranching in indigenous territories could be a more effective approach than attempting to influence governments, too often influenced themselves by multinational corporations, to change their policies. Boycotting destructive industries seemed like a more proactive solution.
With the possibilities offered by the internet I focused on collaborating with SOS Orinoco and other Venezuelan associations who are trying to halt the devastation of the Arco Minero del Orinoco mining project.
I later demonstrated with Survival France against GDF Suez’s involvement in the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project, bringing with me several people who worked at GDF Suez who were also opposed to the inevitable destruction of the rainforest, the rivers and the lives of indigenous peoples of the Xingu region the dam would represent.
Private investors involved in the project include mining giants Alcoa and Vale (to power new mines nearby like the proposed Belo Sun gold mine), construction conglomerates Andrade Gutierrez, Votorantim, Grupo OAS, Queiroz Galvão, Oldebrecht and Camargo Corrêa and energy companies GDF Suez (now ENGIE) and Neoenergia. The The first turbines functioned in May 2016 at the Belo Monte dam. The dam was completed with the installation of its 18th turbine, in November 2019.
As of April 2020 Canadian mining company Belo Sun continues to survey for gold inside indigenous territories in the Brazilian state of Pará despite legal actions brought against it, according to exclusive data obtained by the ONG Mongabay. The project is slated to be the largest open-air mine in Latin America, with 74 tons of the gold expected to be mined over 20 years of operation.
In 2018, I was contacted on Twitter by Stephen Corry, who has been the director of Survival International, based in London, since 1984. He asked me to give him my opinion about who to contact in Venezuela when the Yanomami of the Alto Orinoco and Parima region in Venezuela were dying from malaria propagated by illegal gold miners. We also had exchanges on Twitter and by email about other issues affecting indigenous peoples. Corry suggested that I contact Fiore Longo, the current director of Survival France, and she and I exchanged e-mails concerning plans to eventually meet. Corry also requested that I share Survival videos on rainforest issues on Twitter.
Wikipedia states that “Stephen Corry has worked as a member of Survival International with the perspective that indigenous people have both moral and legal rights to their lands. The protection of this right is considered essential for their survival. They believe that governments must acknowledge this and that this is only possible if they are made to by force of public opinion. Survival International believes that the culture of this people is of great value, and it is now put at great risk from a violent interference on their way of living.”
Wikipedia also states: “Davi Kopenawa is a Portuguese-speaking spokesperson for the Yanomami Indians in Brazil. He became known for his advocacy regarding tribal issues and Amazon rainforest conservation when … Survival International invited him to accept the Right Livelihood Award on its behalf in 1989. …Davi Kopenawa spoke to both the British and Swedish parliaments about the catastrophic impact on Yanomami health as a consequence of the illegal invasion of their land by 40,000 ‘garimpeiros’ or gold miners. Prince Charles publicly called the situation ‘genocide’. In a seven-year period from 1987-1993 one fifth of the Yanomami died from malaria and other diseases transmitted by the miners.”
I was disconcerted after proposing to Corry to join with me in – “spreading the message below because I feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed. In the same way people are being encouraged to change eating habits to protect forests, shopping habits should be examined, especially so close to Valentine’s day, when conspicuous consumption is rampant. I didn’t address in this message to Davi Kopenawa another dubious aspect of Cartier’s marketing strategy; on the website http://cartier.fr next to “Fondation Cartier” there’s Cartier philanthropy: “Our operations” with a long list of countries that includes Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” I continued with: “Some of these countries Cartier claims to be helping are notorious mining sites (gold, diamonds, etc. which are also used in Cartier jewelry) which have been fueling wars and conflict for decades.” I added that “I’d appreciate that you, Stephen, circulate my message or write something on this topic (with or without mentioning companies by name) in advance of the Valentine’s Day onslaught and the Cartier Foundation’s ‘Yanomami Struggle’ art show. – This is my message for Davi Kopenawa: When Raoni Metuktire was in Paris he asked that people in Europe stop eating meat in order to protect the people of the Xingu region from the destruction of their territory by the agro-industry. You, representing the Yanomami, need to ask people in Europe to stop buying, selling and wearing gold in order to protect Yanomami territory. Cartier, the luxury gold watch and jewelry company inviting you to come to Paris to speak is making money from the sympathy that French people feel for the Yanomami and using you and Claudia Andujar as promotional gifts to greenwash their involvement in the extractivist gold industry. The exposition ‘The Yanomami Struggle’ is being presented by the very industry that is causing the destruction to your lives. Cartier operates more than 200 stores in 125 countries and in 2018 was ranked by Forbes as the world’s 59th most wealthy and valuable brand. There is no sustainable way to extract gold. Forests are destroyed to make way for mining and rivers are contaminated. Cyanide is used in the legal gold mining industry instead of the mercury used in illegal mining but the toxic results of using cyanide are the same. The legal gold industry is a labyrinth of miners, bankers, traffickers, and luxury shops. Even in large-scale, industrial legal gold mining there are lax regulations, land grabbing, government-sanctioned expropriation and toxic waste. Organized crime controls the illegal gold distribution market and illegally mined gold commands an important share of the world’s gold market. One of the reasons illegal gold is so valuable to criminal groups is that, unlike cocaine, there’s a legal version that looks exactly like it. Narco-traffickers are contributing to the violence in the Amazon region. Their operations used to rely on drug trafficking. Now, they also depend on illegal gold. Criminal networks are pushing dirty gold through corporations. This illegal supply chain goes all over the world from Samsung to Cartier. Cartier represents the commodity fetishism of luxury jewelry – items that are functionally useless to human society. You can click on this link: http://cartier.com.br to see what luxury gold items they are selling in Brazil and then you can click on ‘Foundation Cartier‘ at the bottom of the page to see how they are selling you to make it seem as though they care about the forest and indigenous people while they continue to sell gold to the world. ‘You must make every choice as though the life of your Earth Mother depended upon it, as though your own life depended upon it, as though your children’s lives depended upon it.’ – John Lundin Thanks, Barbara”
Corry’s astonishing non-responsive response was this:
“Hi Barbara! Hope you are well. Thought you might be interested in one of our videos about the climate crisis from a South American Indigenous perspective.“
I replied: “Curious silence from you, Stephen, regarding my question above about the response from Davi. Curious, also, to see you and Fio excoriating WWF for their unethical practices while Survival supports and contributes to Cartier and the useless-gadgets luxury industry – you know, the very industry that’s exploiting many of the indigenous peoples Survival champions world-wide. Survival should have been OUTSIDE Cartier in January protesting with signs such as ‘Stop Greenwashing Blood Gold and Blood Diamonds!’ … The Cartier Foundation is currently presenting the exhibition ‘The Yanomami Struggle’ while the Yanomami are now actually struggling against the gold industry pillaging their territory! Their last exhibition was ‘We the Trees’ and I wonder which trees, exactly, the show was referring to when it’s necessary to uproot the trees and poison the rivers and soil in order to extract gold for Cartier’s watches and jewelry? None of their luxury gold baubles are on sale at the Foundation, but Cartier, a merchant of luxury gold items since 1847 created their Foundation with funds from selling gold.”
Stephen Corry wrote back:
“Dear Barbara Thanks for your email. Of course I take your point, but please bear in mind that the head of the Cartier Art Centre is a long-standing personal friend of Davi and has been to the Yanomami (more than once I think). The centre has promoted the Yanomami, in one or another, way for many years. We have of course fought against the gold miners in Yanomami territory for decades. I personally know of areas where small-scale gold panning, without the use of contaminants, has been carried out by indigenous people, so it’s not true to say that all gold everywhere is polluting. Raoni might well ask people not to eat meat. However, there are also millions of indigenous people who depend on herd animals for their livelihoods. Most sell some too. In my own peregrinations with Davi over the last 30 years, he has often objected to western cities use of stone, removed from the earth, as building material. However, it has never meant he has refused to go into stone-built buildings in order to promote his people’s survival. Davi has chosen to take advantage of his personal connections to promote his struggle. Far be it from Survival to attempt to dissuade him from this choice. As I say, I do take your point, but would ask you to accept ours too! We have intended, and still intend, to bring your points to Davi, in any case. Best wishes. Yours, Stephen” Survival International 50 years fighting for tribes, for nature, for all humanity survivalinternational.org | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram Since 1969 | Offices in Berlin, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, San Francisco | Supporters in over 100 countries
Shocked, I replied: “Dear Stephen This is not a philosophical question. The issue for Raoni is the devastation caused to the Xingu by the Brazilian agro-industry which he speaks out against relentlessly. Raoni has not appeared anywhere at the invitation of a representative of JBS S.A. or Cargill, ever. I traveled over several years to Mali, Ivory Coast, and Benin and have known many people who depend on herd animals for their livelihoods which is a different subject entirely than global agro-business. I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life, but I recognize that changing habits is complicated since all humans need to eat. Cartier, however, has built their considerable fortune selling items that are unarguably useless to humanity. Their ‘luxury’ baubles contain gold as well as diamonds, emeralds, etc. none of which are mined by artisans using no contaminants. Cartier operates more than 200 stores in 125 countries and in 2018 was ranked by Forbes as the world’s 59th most wealthy and valuable brand. You know better than I do, Stephen, what damage diamond mining is doing in many African countries. The government of Trinidad and Tobago is very concerned about the cyanide and mercury runoff from legal and illegal mining along the Orinoco contaminating their fishing catch over 2000 kilometers away. They have organized symposiums to address this problem. Yanomami I know personally in the Alto Orinoco of Venezuela are suffering from measles and other diseases brought by gold miners invading their territory. Their forests are destroyed and their rivers are polluted. You and Davi can be friends with whomever you choose, but by showing up at Cartier and allowing them to, let’s be honest here, greenwash their image at the expense of the Yanomami is ambiguous. I’m looking forward to hearing back about Davi’s response to the points I’ve brought up. I very much appreciate your intervention on these issues on my behalf. Best regards, Barbara”
I then added Fiore Longo of Survival France to the exchange:
“Hello Stephen and Fio, I was wondering why there was no response after I sent each of you ‘my message for Davi Kopenawa’ by email and on Twitter. I’ve now noticed that you’re promoting the Cartier ‘Yanomami Struggle’ exhibition on Facebook. Do you realize that the Yanomami, Davi Kopenawa’s community in particular, are struggling against 20,000 gold miners in their territory? I’ve noticed over the past months that you’ve been excoriating the WWF for unethical practices while you’re now promoting the extractivist gold and diamond jewelry industry that’s exploiting many, if not most of the indigenous peoples Survival has been championing over decades. This appears to be an enormous and grotesque contradiction of your principles. You do surely know that foundations, in general, are most often created in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and/or greenwash their image.”
I then sent this to Longo:
“Dear Fio, I realize that you were not in the loop regarding the latest correspondence. Since this issue concerns you, too, I’m including the recent emails between Stephen and me. My fervor is fueled by my concern for Yanomami friends who are dying in the Alto Orinoco because of the invasion of gold miners in their territory. I’m hoping that there can be a better way for people to decorate themselves in our culture than the current luxury model that requires the extraction of gold and diamonds. I believe that this issue could be viewed in the same way that we are now reconsidering the damage to the planet caused by air travel. Davi, Stephen and you could help the Yanomami by influencing your friend, the head of the Cartier Art Centre, to change Cartier’s involvement in the luxury gold and diamond industry into something less destructive and unsustainable. I do very much appreciate your intervention on these issues with Davi and with Cartier on my behalf and on the behalf of the Yanomami who are too far removed from civilization to speak for themselves. Best regards, Barbara”
Meanwhile, according to Forbes, as of July 27th, 2020, Cartier’s Brand Value is $12.2 Billion. “Cartier has been selling jewelry to European royalty for more than a century. There are nearly 300 Cartier boutiques worldwide that showcase the brand’s high-end jewelry and watches. The brand is extremely profitable for parent Richemont … Cartier re-opened its flagship store in New York in 2017 after a two-and-a-half-year renovation. The four-story Cartier mansion on Fifth Avenue is part museum and part retailer. The London flagship store got a makeover last year and re-opened in December. A private floor, La Résidence, is reserved for Cartier’s best clients and includes a bar, kitchen, dining room and lounge area.“
I wrote to Corry: “It seems to me that Survival has been more invested mutually with Cartier than you are now pretending. That you don’t wish to elaborate on this issue doesn’t surprise me. Representatives of Survival gave speeches at Cartier and continue to advertise (under the auspices of Survival) Cartier‘s exploitative greenwashing art shows. Why aren’t you taking a position against this? Whose side are you really on?”
Survival’s website states that: “Unlike many charities, we refuse national government funding and do not take money from corporations that could be violating tribal peoples’ rights. … Survival is politically and financially independent of all government, political, religious or corporate involvement. Because relying on your generosity gives us complete independence. It preserves our integrity, ensuring we never adjust our message or work to suit donors. Under ‘Financials -Where our money comes from’ is listed: A: Supporter donations & foundations (67%) B: Fundraising & sales from our shop (11.8%) C: Legacies (18.2%) D: Investments (3%)“
I wonder which “foundations” are giving Survival money? If foundations are giving Survival money, how is it possible to be independent from corporate involvement?
Fiore Longo on Twitter states: “If there is something I learned spending years and years with Indigenous tribal communities in their forests, it’s that what we call nature – what we call Earth – they call home.“
Fio, you read Corry’s evasive responses to my emails but had nothing to add or modify? You’re both so voluble when denouncing other NGOs, but nothing to add to “small-scale gold panning, without the use of contaminants“? All those “years and years with indigenous tribal communities” and “peregrinations with Davi over the last 30 years” but you two never noticed environmental damage at a mining site for the gold, diamonds, emeralds and sapphires hawked by Cartier and others in the luxury industry? Neither of you ever met indigenous children with extensive, irreversible neurological problems caused by ingesting fish contaminated with mercury like the Hoti children on the rio Ventuari in Venezuela or the Wayana children of the Haut-Maroni and Haut-Oyapock in French Guyana ?
And what about Africa, where the number of children working in gold mines in Tanzania, Ghana, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries remains a major concern. In the Central African Republic, children as young as 11 work alongside adults in the blood diamond trade. In Asia, children as young as five are working in mines and quarries. Mercury poisoning, liver disease and respiratory ailments are just some of the hazards they face… According to research reported by Info Amazonia, 838 tons of mercury were emitted by artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Amazonian countries (2015 – last available UNEP data) – http://mercury.infoamazonia.org https://pic.twitter.com/uF1hQx6upT
“Mercury, the toxic metal in the shadow of the gold industry, represents a multi-million dollar business. Producing 19.1 tons of gold, according to official records, requires using an estimated 29 tons of mercury.” These figures represent an ethnocide and ecocide of epic proportions…
But, who needs Nature in a realm in which Cartier is “reinventing nature, more natural than nature itself” ? – from this entrancing Cartier publicity: “More natural than nature itself: The New High Jewelry Collection It is nature that sets the tone of [Sur]naturel, the new Cartier High Jewelry collection.
It paves the way to beauty more real than nature itself, rooted in reality and transformed into the realm of the supernatural.
Diamonds, emeralds and sapphires mix with opal and kunzite, coral and aquamarine, beryl and quartz.
Water, flora and fauna breathe life into an ultra-precious universe that exists at the boundaries of fantasy and reality.”
Dario Kopenawa, Davi’s son, pleads to the people of India in a video: “The gold which has come from our Yanomami territory is Blood Gold, gold at the cost of indigenous blood. I’d like to send a message to the people of India, to the Indian government and the companies which import it: You must stop buying Blood Gold. Buying Blood Gold is not good. It’s important that the government thinks again, that the Indian people think again and do not buy Yanomami Blood Gold.”
Perhaps Cartier would like to explain to Davi and Dario Kopenawa why they have Cartier shops in India selling their luxury gold and diamond baubles?
Human Rights Watch’s assessment of Cartier’s business practices is in an article by professionaljeweler.com:
“Cartier is owned by Richemont, a luxury goods group based in Switzerland, and represents an estimated 45 percent of Richemont’s revenue. Chain of custody: Cartier has chain of custody for some, but not all, of its gold. It does not indicate whether it has chain of custody for diamonds… Cartier’s corporate responsibility policy does not mention traceability… Cartier’s parent company Richemont says that traceability is a long-term goal and an area for improvement for all its companies in the coming years. According to Richemont’s Supplier Code of Conduct, suppliers are required to demonstrate that they are undertaking human rights due diligence, but it is unclear whether Cartier enforces this provision. Cartier did not respond to Human Rights Watch’s request for a meeting.”
Corry posted on Twitter on August 12th: “Want to save Amazonia? Ensure as much as possible stays with #TribalPeoples who made ecosystem in the first place. Yet big conservation NGOs call it ‘wilderness’ and remember @WWF said #IndigenousPeoples would cut it down #FightEcofascism“
Sure, Stephen…But it’s neither an ecosystem nor a wilderness once gold miners have destroyed the forest and sold the gold they’ve dug up. After what Davi Kopenawa calls “Cannibal Gold” has been transformed into merchandise, all that’s left for the #TribalPeoples is destruction and death from mercury poisoning, measles, malaria and COVID-19 propagated by the gold miners.
And @WWF isn’t the only NGO Corry claims is unethical. There’s also Corry’s Twitter bit here:
“Ah yes, @nature_org (The Nature Conservancy) partners with @Walmart That’s that highly ethical company which doesn’t seem to treat people very well – to say the least. Have a look at and #FightEcofascism Big “conservation” NGOs = scandal.“
And Corry here:“FSC “investigating” its own “certified” palm-oil producer. It’s taken 4 years even to *start* it. I can complete it in 1 min @FSC_IC will say, ‘It wasn’t as bad as claimed, it’s not our fault anyway, there were some mistakes, we promise to do better.‘”
The head of the Cartier Art Centre, General Director of the Cartier Foundation, Hervé Chandès, details in an interview by Caroline Lebrun https://www.paris-art.com/herve-chandes-fondation-cartier/ how closely the foundation is supervised by the Cartier luxury watch and jewelry company. Chandès states that “The Cartier Foundation is private, entirely funded by Cartier for its communications.“
A photo that Chandès took at Davi Kopenawa’s community is featured on page 27 of the 2003 catalog for the Cartier Foundation’s “Yanomami, the spirit of the forest”, the first art show in which Cartier exploited the Yanomami – in order to greenwash the luxury industry’s “dirty gold” image?
I wondered at the time if the map the Yanomami are holding shows the locations of the hundreds of Cartier shops selling gold watches, jewelry and luxury accessories around the world…?
Even before Covid-19, propagated by gold miners, began decimating Yanomami communities – Davi Kopenawa invited journalists from The Guardian to report on the gold mining damage in Yanomami territory in Brazil. – “The age of extinction ‘Like a bomb going off’: why Brazil’s largest reserve is facing destruction.”
In 2018 the Miami Herald did an extensive investigation of the international drug industry they titled “How drug lords make billions smuggling gold to Miami for your jewelry and phones.”
“A large part of the gold that’s commercialized in the world comes stained by blood and human rights abuses,” said Julián Bernardo González, vice president of sustainability for Continental Gold, a Canadian mining company with operations in Colombia that holds legal titles and pays taxes, unlike many smaller mining operations. One big difference between cocaine and gold? Cocaine is obviously illegal. With gold, it’s hard to tell. Papers can be forged. The metal can be melted and remelted until its origin is impossible to pinpoint. Here’s how gold fits in: Drug-cartel associates posing as precious-metals traders buy and mine gold in Latin America. Cocaine profits are their seed money. They sell the metal through front companies — hiding its criminal taint — to refineries in the United States and other major gold-buying nations like Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. Once the deal is made, the cocaine kingpins have successfully turned their dirty gold into clean cash. To the outside world, they’re not drug dealers anymore; they’re gold traders. That’s money laundering.
Mining regions in the rainforest have become epicenters of human trafficking, disease and environmental destruction, according to government officials and human rights investigators. Miners are forced into slavery. Prostitutes set up camps near the miners, fueling the spread of sexually transmitted infections. One human rights group found that 2,000 sex workers, 60 percent of them children, were employed in a single mining area in Peru. Meanwhile, strip mining and the indiscriminate use of mercury to ferret out gold are turning swaths of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems into a nightmarish moonscape. In 2016, Peru declared a temporary state of emergency over widespread mercury poisoning in Madre de Dios, a jungle province rife with illegal mining. Nearly four in five adults in the area’s capital city tested positive for dangerous levels of mercury…”
Anyone who is considering buying or wearing gold should see Netflix’s documentary anthology series, “Dirty Money” – in the episode titled “Dirty Gold: “…who lives with the daily threat of execution … …One refinery employee – proud that Cartier was a customer …”
As much as 75% of the gold extracted each year is used for jewelry, watches and other vain and futile status symbols sold by Cartier and other corporations in the luxury industry worldwide. Tens of thousands of rainforest trees must be uprooted, hundreds of tons of soil mined and mixed with dozens of tons of toxic environmental pollutants that contaminate indigenous lands for that one special gold ring…
As a speaker at the inauguration of “The Yanomami Struggle” said: “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.” – and the disappearance of the forests essential to life!
On Twitter Cartier continues to “help” the Yanomami: @Fond_Cartier – The Gold Watch & Jewelry industry owned Cartier Foundation announces: “The Yanomami launched the #ForaGarimpoForaCovid (Goldminers OUT – Covid OUT) campaign to demand the removal of 20,000 illegal gold miners from their land. #MinersOutCovidOut” Communiqué de presse > https://bit.ly/PR_Hutukara
Huge quantities of gold flow around the world every year. Behind this insatiable appetite is a dark truth of money laundering, illegal mining, environmental damage and human misery.
Pope Francis condemned the horrors of gold mining during a visit to the Amazon. The region’s gold boom, the pope said, has become a “false god that demands human sacrifice.”- echoed by Davi Kopenawa’s “Cannibal Gold”.