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Child labour charges NGO condemns Swiss refiner over African gold imports

"Abysmal conditions" at Burkina Faso mines, where gold exported to Switzerland is sourced

(Keystone)

The Swiss-based refiner Valcambi has been criticized in a new report for allegedly importing gold from Togo, processed in artisanal mines employing children in neighboring Burkina Faso.

A report by the Berne Declaration non-governmental organization published on Thursday claimed the Ticino-based refiner, Valcambi, imported seven tonnes of the precious metal in 2014 from Togo, a non-producing country. The gold was allegedly smuggled from Burkina Faso, where children and adults worked “under abysmal conditions”.

The reportexternal link, entitled “A Golden Racket”, claimed the metal was smuggled to the country’s capital, before being purchased by a subsidiary of the Ammar Group, a conglomerate owned by a Lebanese family. The company’s Geneva-based branch, MM Multitrade, then imported the gold to Switzerland and sold it to the refiner, the NGO said.

Export taxes on gold are lower in Togo than in Burkina Faso.

In Burkina Faso’s artisanal mines, approximately 30-50% of the labour force is composed of children. Poor safety conditions and living conditions lead the International Labour Organization (ILO) to label gold mining there as among the “worst forms of child labour”.


In reply, Valcambi’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Mesaric told Swiss public television, SRF: “Valcambi does not comment on rumours and/or allegations”.

Valcambi, which was recently acquired by Indian jewellery firm, Rajesh Exports, is the world’s largest precious metal refiners. Four of the biggest gold refiners globally, are based in Switzerland.

Last year, Switzerland began publishing trade data on gold imports, in a bid to generate greater transparency. Approximately 70% of global gold trade transits through Switzerland.

Berne Declaration’s report also emphasized “the political necessity to establish binding due diligence measures for Swiss commodity firms”.

In October, the Swiss government is expected to host a board meeting of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which aims to improve accountability and transparency in the sector.
 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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