Metalor develops technology aimed at reducing trade in illegally mined gold

METALOR, one of the world’s largest gold refiners, has developed technology that would enable it to better identify metal that had been illegally mined, said Reuters.

The technology takes a sample of gold from a mine or supplier and creates a complex chemical and physical blueprint against which subsequent shipments can be checked, said the newswire citing the refiner’s executive, Jonathan Jodry.

If a shipment contains gold from a different source, this will be visible because its blueprint, which Metalor calls a “geoforensic passport”, won’t match the one in the refiner’s database. Similar analysis of gold was possible before but was too unwieldy to be applied to every shipment, Jodry told Reuters.

The technique is the fruit of a 26-month-long research project with the University of Lausanne.

However, while the method is reliable with gold from a single mine, Jodry said, it cannot yet reliably confirm the origin of gold shipped by collectors combining metal from multiple suppliers — something common in small scale mining.

Gold worth billions of dollars is smuggled out of Africa annually through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to a 2019 Reuters report.

Citing customs data, Reuters said the UAE imported $15.1bn in gold from Africa in 2016, but a large portion of that gold supply was not recorded in the exports of African states. “There is a lot of gold leaving Africa without being captured in our records,” Frank Mugyenyi, a senior adviser on industrial development at the African Union told Reuters.

“UAE is cashing in on the unregulated environment in Africa,” he said.