With prices for the precious metal surging on markets all across the globe, Fairtrade and Fairmined gold will go on sale in the UK in a first-ever effort to secure a fair deal for gold miners and their communities.
Some of the world’s best-known names in the precious metals industry, Garrard, Harriet Kelsall and pioneer ethical jeweller CRED are among the first 20 companies to launch the world’s first Fairtrade and Fairmined gold.
Implications and Effects
What do the words “fairtrade” and “fairmined” really mean? To understand this, let’s look at what really goes on in the process of putting this beautiful glittering metal in the sleek display windows of shiny shops in the city.
Hundreds of thousands of workers are lured to seek their fortune in one of the world’s most dangerous industries – the gold industry – every year. And because of their vulnerable position in the supply chain, the unfortunate fact is that it is the miners who benefit the least from this ‘21st century goldrush’.
Many of the estimated 15 million people working in the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector risk disease, serious injury and death. ASM miners are also often taken advantage of by unscrupulous middle men.
The International Labour Organisation states there are over six times the number of accidents in ASM compared with large scale mining, mainly due to larger labour force and poorer working conditions. Furthermore there are severe risks to health caused by daily contact with toxic chemicals used to process gold, such as mercury, cyanide and nitric acid. Exposure to mercury vapours and ingestion of contaminated food leads to brain and nervous system damage, vomiting, gastroenteritis, kidney complaints and muscular tremors.
Fairtrade and fairmined gold means gold produced through processes which do not involve child labour or poisonous chemicals, through a fully traceable supply line leading all the way back to the mine, and with fair, fixed wages for every labourer along the way.
Being part of the Fairtrade and Fairmined system means miners will adhere to a set of standards, guaranteeing that gold is produced in a way that is safe for people and the environment. In return, miners will receive a set minimum Fairtrade price for their gold, plus the Fairtrade premium to invest in community and business development projects. They will also establish long-term business relationships with their commercial partners. Plans include improving the technology and working conditions in the mines and setting up community projects in education, health, and environmental restoration.
Labour of Love
The Fairtrade minimum price for pure gold is set at 95% of the London Bullion Market Association’s (LBMA) fix. The LBMA fix is the international agreed price for gold. ASM producers in the mainstream get anything from 30% to 85% of the LBMA fix.
The Cotapata Mining Co-operative in Bolivia is the first Fairtrade and Fairmined conventional mining organisation to be certified, and Condoto was the first group certified to produce ecological gold, with more expected to be certified in the coming weeks and months. If just 5% of the gold used in the UK jewellery market is Fairtrade and Fairmined certified, this could transform opportunities for miners.
Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: ‘The reality of gold production is at complete odds with what consumers imagine. Consumers care about the conditions faced by miners. This is why Fairtrade and Fairmined gold has the potential to tackle unfair supply chains, improve working and environmental conditions and deliver tangible and sustainable economic benefits to impoverished communities. Now that is what I call a labour of love."