London — On Thursday, the World Gold Council (WGC) published a set of guidelines for gold miners designed to encourage high environmental and ethical standards.

The guidelines are the latest industry code of conduct responding to rising pressure from consumers, NGOs and governments to ensure the gold market is free from criminality, rights abuses, and that it benefits local communities.

The WGC said its responsible gold mining principles “are a framework that sets out clear expectations for consumers, investors and the downstream gold supply chain as to what constitutes responsible gold mining”. 

The guidelines set corporate standards for governance, safety, labour and community engagement and environmental impact.

The WGC said it will consolidate existing standards and instruments under a single framework. Miners will be required to have their adherence to the code verified by outside assessors.

The WGC says its members, which include Newmont Goldcorp, Barrick Gold and AngloGold Ashanti, represent two-fifths of global gold production estimated to be about 3,300 tonnes a year worth some $15bn at current prices.

About 95% of member companies have so far signed up to the principles, with the remainder expected to do so soon, said Newmont CEO Gary Goldberg. He said most large gold miners’ practices were already in line with the guidelines, and that he hoped non-members would also adopt the code.

The WGC’s membership comprises industrial gold miners but does not include small-scale, artisanal miners, whose share of global production has risen to about 15%. These miners often work in dangerous conditions and use toxic chemicals that damage the environment, while their output can be controlled by organised crime.