The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed all the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) to follow and strictly implement “Guidelines for Gold Assaying Hallmarking Centres” issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to check pollution caused due to testing of gold. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has asked the CPCB to monitor that all the states and union territories (UTs) follow the guidelines strictly so that environmental norms are met. The plea alleged that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had released acids in the environment while testing gold.

A committee constituted by National Green Tribunal have informed that even though there are many techniques available for assaying precious metal with merits and demerits, the conventional fire assay is still the preferred assaying method for higher accuracy, repeatability, moderate and comparatively lesser cost of analysis. The fire assay test does create toxic emissions by way of toxic metal and acidic fumes, the committee said. The committee suggested that all the gold assaying and hallmarking centres in the country shall obtain the Consent to Establish/Consent to Operate and also obtain authorisation under Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016.

The BIS Hallmark is a hallmarking system for gold as well as silver jewellery sold in India certifying the purity of precious metals. Hallmarking certifies that the piece of jewellery conforms to set of standards laid by the BIS. The BIS system of hallmarking of gold jewellery began in April, 2000. Hallmarking gold jewellery is mandatory, it is yet to be implemented. However consumers insist manufacturers/jewellers for BIS hallmarking in their products as it certifies the purity of gold articles. Due to this wide acceptance of BIS hallmarking among consumers, fake and spurious hallmarking of jewellery is on rise.

According to the committee, “The regulatory requirements shall be made mandatory to all gold assaying/hallmarking facilities and the same may be incorporated in the BIS guideline for gold assaying and hallmarking. The lead fumes generated during cupellation and the acidic nitrous fumes generated during the parting acid treatment are to be treated by a proper fumes extraction treatment system.” As per the data available with BlS, there are 851 recognised gold assaying and hallmarking facilities in the country. Maharashtra has the highest 120 of such facilities, followed by West Bengal (98) and Tamil Nadu (95). Southern region has a maximum of 283 hallmarking centers followed by western zone (195).