Five of the nation's leading jewelers have sworn off gold that could someday come from the proposed Pebble Mine, a huge deposit near the world's most productive wild sockeye salmon stream.
The jewelers, including Tiffany & Co., Ben Bridge Jeweler and Helzberg Diamonds, pledged Tuesday not to knowingly sell jewelry made from gold that might be extracted from the proposed mine near the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska.
"We are committed to sourcing our gold and other materials in ways that ensure the protection of natural resources such as the Bristol Bay watershed," the pledge says. "We would not want the jewelry we sell to our customers to jeopardize this important natural resource."
The other two companies making the pledge to support permanent protection of the watershed from large-scale mining are Fortunoff and Leber Jewelers. The five retailers together sold about $2.2 billion in jewelry in 2006.
Northern Dynasty Mines Inc., an American subsidiary of Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., is developing the prospect in partnership with Anglo American PLC, a London-based mining company.
Northern Dynasty spokesman Sean Magee said he was surprised that none of the companies contacted Northern Dynasty before signing the pledge. He said Northern Dynasty would be contacting the retailers this week to describe Pebble Mine and the approach to the project.
"We have made a commitment to employ the very highest standards at Pebble," Magee said.
The pledge was made in conjunction with a report by the No Dirty Gold campaign led by Oxfam America and Earthworks, an advocacy group.
Pebble Mine is estimated to be the second largest ore deposit of its type in the world. Production could begin in 2015.