Human Rights Watch
Att. Mrs. J. Kippenberg
Children's Rights Division
Neuchatel, February 5th, 2015
Your letter dated December 19th, 2014
Dear Mrs. Kippenberg, dear Mr. Ganesan,
We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated last December 19th, 2014 and appreciate your interest to learn more about the policies and practices that Metalor has in place regarding human rights-related risks in the chain of custody for gold in Ghana.
First of all, we would like to point out that the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas is fully integrated in Metalor's Due Diligence process as further described under item 1 below. Metalor, alone among gold refiners, has taken a leading role in the OECD Gold Supplement drafting committees to create the worldwide due diligence guidance to avoid finance of conflict through gold transactions. In these efforts Metalor worked with governments, leading NGOs and industry associations to create guidance that is strong and elective, and that has been widely endorsed.
Metalor also complies with the Responsible Gold Standard of the LBMA that is based on the OECD Due Diligence Guidance. Further to an independent third-party audit of our supply chain due diligence, Metalor successfully passed its Responsible Gold Audit Program for its refineries in Marin (Switzerland), North Attleboro (USA), Hong Kong and Singapore, and received the corresponding Responsible Gold Certificate from the LBMA for each of these four sites. Copies of those certificates are available on Metalor's web site: www.metalor.com. Those certificates can be obtained only by companies listed on the LBMA's "London Good Delivery List of Acceptable Refiners". In this respect is it worth noting that gold coming to Metalor from Ghana is refined in our Swiss plant in Marin.
The above confirms that Metalor's business practices comply with the "LBMA Responsible Gold Guidance", and therefore also with the OECD Guidance, which formalizes and extends the already existing due diligence in the refining industry by incorporating a risk-based approach to avoid sourcing gold from areas subject to conflict and in violation of human rights.
Further to your request, we are pleased to provide you with the following information:
1. To ensure that irreproachable standards of behavior are applied and controlled in practice, Metalor has, as part of the policies, procedures and work instructions that govern every aspect of the business including legal, environmental, health and safety, child labor and labor rights, financial and reputational risk management, a detailed set of processes specifically governing the establishment of new and management of existing customer relationships anywhere in the world, like for example:
o A regular detailed analysis and verification of the bona fides of each customer,
o a detailed due diligence review, including the supply chain,
o onsite inspections,
o customer approval responsibility is assigned to the highest level of the
company ( Metalor's Compliance Committee, which is directly managed by the CEO, the CFO and the Group General Counsel),
o anti-terrorist and Anti-Money-Laundering requirements included in our KYC ("Know Your Customer") processes under the supervision of the FINMA (the Swiss Financial Market Supervision Authority).
Should any doubt, suspicion or information arise in the course of any customer relationship and monitoring, Metalor will investigate such issues and draw necessary conclusions, taking necessary and appropriate actions in cooperation with regulatory offices, including but not limited to the eventual termination of the business relationship.
2. Metalor's own robust due diligence process described above, that include Metalor's staff site visit of its producers, and the commitment of our customer to comply with it, are strong steps that ensure rigorous human rights due diligence measures. Furthermore, we would like to underline that the very limited customer's base in Ghana is duly licensed by the government of Ghana to buy gold and export same from Ghana under the Minerals and Mining Act of 2006, Act 703. Those buying from other producers can only buy from duly licensed small scale mining operation under the supervision of the Minerals Commission. Said Commission, as part of its monitoring process, verifies exporter's purchases and returns and do also receive copies of the refinery reports and therefore vouch that they operate their business in a very transparent manner and do not purchase gold from illegal sources nor from operations where child labor is involved.
By the way, the majority of the gold Metalor is supplied with originates from industrial mining operation belonging to listed stock exchange companies.
3. Metalor is working in full transparency with its suppliers and therefore has access to the name and the origin of their producers of gold. However, and for commercial reasons, we are not in a position to disclose information regarding our customer base. Please note that in the scope of our annual AML audit, the Swiss regulator (FINMA) has a full insight of Metalor's customer base and we maintain a transparent dialogue on that topic with other Swiss authorities such as the Federal Department of foreign Affairs and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (www.dfae.admin.ch and www.seco.admin.ch)
4. Based on our Due Diligence process, the monitoring of our customers, that as mentioned above includes regular site visits by Metalor staff, and the cooperation with the local authorities, Metalor believes, and is continuously striving to ensure that the mines Metalor is sourcing from in Ghana do not use child labor. Furthermore, Metalor has a "no mercury policy" in place that is well known from its suppliers. As a consequence, each gram of gold that is supplied to Metalor refineries has to be mercury free being otherwise not accepted.
22.214.171.124. We are aware that in artisanal mining sector in Ghana and in several other places around the world working conditions need to be improved. This is part of the reason why Metalor did not onboard new suppliers in Ghana in the last 12 months essentially considering to the demanding selection criteria's that it has in place. This explains why Metalor mainly works with industrial mining companies in Ghana as opposed to artisanal mining.
Metalor staff has had at several times the opportunity to discuss face to face with members of the Minerals Commission in Ghana (Director Planning and Policy Analysis and Planning and Policy Officer) in order to share preoccupations about child labor and environmental issues. Further to this open dialogue with said Commission, our staff constantly addresses this topic as a top concern and requirement to its customer base to ensure a long term business relationship.
Metalor has also been working already for many years with the Jewelry and Watchmaking industry through many different channels, to set ethical standards in the supply chain of precious metals, including working conditions at the mines. The participation of Metalor in initiatives like Fairmined (http://www.fairmined.org/) are good examples of a collaborative effort to secure the future success of ethical gold.
Metalor is contributing to the Better Gold Initiative (of the Swiss Better Gold Association).This initiative combines the efforts of the governments of Peru and Switzerland, the Responsible Jewellery Council and NGO Fairtrade/Fairmined, the SECO (the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs), Metalor, and consumers of gold in Switzerland. Its goal is to formalize a large group of artisanal miners in Peru, with guidance and standards for improved environmental and social working conditions and operations, and to bring that gold into the formal gold industry to concerned consumers in a sustainable way.
This project is considered by the government of Switzerland to be a part of its humanitarian efforts in developing countries, which may potentially be extended to Ghana in a near future.
6. Metalor does not have a report on human rights. However, it is Metalor policy to immediately report any violation of its Supply Chain Due Diligence Policy and suspending any further business relationship with uncompliant suppliers. In the case of Ghana, the report would be made directly to the Mineral Commission and communicated for information to the FINMA
10. Metalor has its own Whistleblowing policy that enables anyone with knowledge of or concerns over an actual or potential violation of law, regulation, policy or procedure to report same. Furthermore, the above mentioned Supply Chain due diligence policy that is signed by each of our customers and is available on Metalor's website, provides contact details of our Compliance officers worldwide that can be contacted in that regards.
We hope we have addressed all the points raised in your letter but should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact us again.
Metalor Technologies SA
Group General Counsel