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The World’s Biggest Gold Story 2011 – Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold

The World’s Biggest Gold Story 2011 – Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold


Generally, gold is mined either on a large industrial scale or by individuals and small groups of miners. The latter, referred to collectively as artisanal and small scale mining (ASM), encompasses a workforce estimated at around 15 million people across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Small scale operations are extremely labour-intensive: ore is collected by hand from riverbeds, mine waste, or out of the ground; crushed mechanically or by hand and concentrated using mercury or cyanide based techniques. All that labour means around 90% of the mining workforce is contributing about 10% of the gold on the market.

Understanding the Problem

ASM workers face many hardships, but often mining is the best or only choice they have to make a living. Individuals and small groups have limited access in a market which favours large scale production, and thus small mining operations tend to be informal, illegal, and unregulated. Inadequate tools and training, and poor handling of toxic chemicals, frequently lead to hazardous conditions for workers and various forms of environmental damage. Concerned with making a day-to-day living, miners often sell at a low price to on the-spot buyers and thus struggle to improve living conditions for themselves and their families. In some cases, with no childcare facilities, children simply work alongside familymembers at the mine site.

Positive Change

CRED HEX BANGLE GOLDItʼs not surprising that we donʼt know the ins and outs of where the gold in our jewellery comes from. But until recently, even if we had asked the question, answers would be hard to come by. That situation is now changing, and our purchasing choices in this market already have the potential to effect a positive change in the lives of some desperately poor communities. Whatʼs driving this change? The Fairtrade and Fairmined mark.

What is Fairtrade & Fairmined Gold?

Fairtrade & Fairmined Gold Logo 2011

For the first time, consumers now have the opportunity to buy jewellery that is Fairtrade and Fairmined certified, and this is a hugely important step for the industry. In simple terms, the mark means that the gold has been mined, processed and traded in a fair and responsible manner. To achieve this guarantee, standards have been determined by Fairtrade International (FLO) and the Colombia-based Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), with the aim of empowering artisanal and small scale miners to achieve a fair price for their work. Certification not only addresses working conditions and environmental responsibility but drives improvements in living conditions and prospects for whole communities. Aside from health and safety considerations, there are usually environmental implications where unregulated mining is concerned. A lack of awareness and poor training can easily lead to environmental damage such as the release of toxic chemicals into the environment, water pollution, soil erosion and deforestation. In fact, bad mining practices are responsible for the release of hundreds of tonnes of mercury every year.

How Does Certification Work?

ASMs seeking certification must achieve agreed standards in the following areas:

• Working conditions and safety – protective gear and training is mandatory

• Child labour – regional laws must be observed, including age limits and protected health and schooling for children

• Environmental responsibility – correct practice and minimal use of toxic chemicals

• Local community input – funds go back into improving the mining community

• A traceable supply chain for the first time between mine and retailer

In return the miners receive:

• a minimum price which is guaranteed at 95% of the international market price

• improved market access

• a Fairtrade premium of 10% of the guaranteed minimum

• optionally, an additional 5% Ecological Premium for eliminating chemical use

• access to technical support and training

Read more on the Fairtrade and Fairmined Standards HERE

Cotapata Cooperative Fairtrade & Fairmined Gold MineThe scheme is already underway in Latin America with the first certified fairtrade and fairmined gold mine at the Cotapata Co-operative, Bolivia, where the associated financial benefits are facilitating real-world improvements. Small-scale producers joining forces may choose to invest in more efficient, safer equipment which may, for instance, allow a move away from mercury use to less harmful cyanide processing. Existing certified groups have already put money into childcare, thus removing children from mine areas. View the latest from the Alliance for Responsible Mining.

Other positive results have included relocating housing away from hazardous areas and improving healthcare. This is genuine, life-changing stuff.

For the latest Fairtrade Foundation and Alliance for Responsible Mining Report entitled ‘ Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold, Empowering responsible artisanal and small-scale miners, READ MORE

The Future

As this groundbreaking initiative launches in the UK expansion to other countries is planned throughout 2011, with the aim of achieving Fairtrade and Fairmined standards for 5% of the gold jewellery market over the next 15 years. While ARM and FLO look to governments to change legislation, individual consumers also have the opportunity to make a measurable and positive difference in this market by creating demand amongst retailers for responsibly mined gold. Next time you are browsing for jewellery, look out for the dual stamp and labelling that makes it easy to be part of the change HERE

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