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Apple & Tiffany partnering with Alaskan gold environmental stewards

Alaskan gold re-mined from tailing pile, and stewarded by RESOLVE

Apple is partnering with environmental group RESOLVE to find new ways to responsibly source gold in Alaska for electronics manufacture.

"Placer mining" sites are designed and located to find nuggets left over from the Klondike gold rush dot Alaskan rivers. These sites often sit adjacent to the 12 Pacific salmon runs that are specifically named under the Endangered Species Act, and the runoff from rains can impact the health of the water, and damage the salmon spawning runs.

RESOLVE is an organization that wants to combine the re-mining efforts with restoration to improve the streams that may be impacted by the placer mining, urbanization, and wildfires. The effort is called Salmon Gold, and Apple has partnered with the group.

"There's a lot of tension between mining and salmon," says Stephen D'Esposito, CEO of RESOLVE. "Salmon Gold is like a peace treaty between mining and salmon habitat. It's a place where the three sectors can work together: the restoration community, First Nations and the mining industry."

Apple and luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. will source gold from these miners who have committed to restore and improve the land they're operating on when they're done.

"As we continue to increase our use of recycled materials, we're seeking out innovative ways to source gold responsibly," says Paula Pyers, Apple's head of Supplier Responsibility. "Partnering with Tiffany, a pioneer in sustainable sourcing, as well as RESOLVE ensures Salmon Gold can be an example of how the industry can evolve."

RESOLVE has secured restoration plans with three miners in Alaska and the Yukon already, with plans for more. It is predicted that over 1,000 ounces of the partnership's trademarked Salmon Gold will be discovered at the end of the season, increased from 25 ounces in the summer of 2018.

Example of tailing pile, left over by mining efforts
Example of tailing pile, left over by mining efforts, photo CBC

Part of the placer mining process involves tailing piles. These piles are large deposits of topsoil and other material churned up from old mining sites and other processing centers to find left-behind chunks of gold that were missed in the original screening process.

"All of Jack Wade is full of tailing piles, and Mother Earth will someday eventually recover that, but it's going to take a couple hundred years," local miner Dean Race told Apple. "All we're doing is speeding up the process when I'm done with it, it's going to look like a park."

Chris Race, Dean Race's son, working a tailing pile looking for gold
Chris Race, Dean Race's son, working a tailing pile looking for gold

Starting in the fall, all Salmon Gold entering Apple's supply chain and used for production will be tracked from the mine to the refiner using blockchain technology. After the pilot phase, RESOLVE will work with partners to expand Salmon Gold's impact and turn it into what the group calls a "self-sustaining social enterprise that achieves restoration and revitalization of fish habitat at scale."

Apple has recently published its annual environmental responsibility report. In it, the company touted an increased focus on not just recycling, but material recovery as well.

The company also promotes assorted programs to help it reclaim gold from its own products that consumers are recycling. Two of these include turn-in programs, as well as robots designed to efficiently strip down iPhones into component parts for easier recycling and reclaim of the gold and other precious materials in the devices.