For Tiffany, All that Glitters Isn't Gold

The company that is trying to develop the Pebble Mine has been preparing an application for a Clean Water Act permit for several years.  So far they have spent $125 million on hundreds of environmental studies that cover every possible aspect of the mine’s potential impacts. If the Environmental Protection Agency concludes that the mine could ever pose any threat to the Bristol Bay watershed, then the permit will be denied.

That is the reality. But in this case at least, Tiffany is concerned with public relations, not reality. They have mindlessly accepted the anti-mining propaganda without any apparent concern for the facts or the damaging effects of their political advocacy. If the "No Dirty Gold" campaign succeeds, one of the largest copper and gold discoveries in the world will not be mined.

The economic loss to Alaska will be staggering. Hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth will not be created. One thousand high-paying jobs that the mine would provide for at least thirty years (and probably for several more decades) will vanish.

Of course, that would be just the beginning.  If "No Dirty Gold" succeeds in blocking the Pebble Mine, then they will be in a stronger position to block other proposed mines around the country.

Tiffany doesn’t care about destroying one thousand American mining jobs. What’s a thousand jobs compared to enhancing Tiffany’s environmental image with their fashionable customers? After all, it’s unlikely that any miner will ever be able to afford a $3800 gold bangle imprinted with the Tiffany  logo.

However, when their own profits are threatened, the company takes a very different position. In an official 2010 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tiffany’s general counsel objected to an obscure provision in the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill that requires the company to certify that their jewelry does not contain any gold produced in or around the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The general counsel notes correctly that there is no way to determine where refined gold has been produced. Trying to comply with the so-called “conflict mineral” provision would be “impracticable and extremely costly.”

Rather than hypocritically trying to score points by opposing so-called “dirty gold,” Tiffany needs to clean up its own act.