By Michelle Graff
Corvallis, Ore.—Designer Toby Pomeroy now has a board of directors in place to move his Mercury-Free Mining Challenge forward.

Late last month, the organization announced that former GIA CEO Bill Boyajian will chair its board of directors.

Joining him on the board are Ronnie VanderLinden, who heads diamond company Diamex Inc., is president of the DMIA and will be the board secretary; Lashbrook founder and CEO Eric Laker, treasurer; and MVI founder and CEO Marty Hurwitz, who will serve as marketing director.

Jerry Buckley, an executive with extensive experience in fundraising and nonprofit, is director of global initiatives.

In addition, the Mercury-Free Mining Challenge has received its 501(c)(3) certification, meaning it is officially recognized as a tax-exempt nonprofit, Pomeroy said Thursday.

The idea behind the challenge is for the industry to pool its resources to offer up a $1 million prize to the individual, team or organization that comes up with an alternative to the use of mercury in artisanal gold mining.

Artisanal miners use mercury to separate the gold find from other materials then burn it off by heating it, which sends particles of the toxic element into the air that are particularly hazardous to pregnant women and young children.

Artisanal miners produce 20 percent of the gold mined every year and inadvertently release 8,000 pounds of mercury into the environment, the organization said.

In an extensive Q&A with National Jeweler published late last year, Pomeroy compared the Mercury-Free Mining Challenge to the challenge prizes offered to figure out a more efficient way to clean up the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill or to make commercial space travel possible.

“If we’re willing to come together for this, if we’re willing to say this is a universal problem and show our strong side … this [could be] the best story ever because it resonates,” he said.

Pomeroy is heading the team that will manage, publicize and conduct the challenge. The team will also include a panel of judges, which has yet to be finalized.

For more information on the challenge, visit

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