On Wednesday, UK jewelers announced the launch of "Fairtrade" gold jewelry. Some jewelers have already been using gold from these same Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) mines, but two of the mines have recently been certified "Fairtrade." What are these mines, and what does "Fairtrade gold" mean?
The mines, one in Colombia and one in Bolivia, demonstrate both the potential benefits and the problems of the Alliance for Responsible Mining/Fairtrade Labeling Organization certification standards for "Fairtrade" and "Fairmined." The mining and certification may well benefit the communities on the short-term, and the Colombian Oro Verde mine does not use mercury or cyanide. On the other hand, reclamation and restoration standards are poorly defined at both mines, and the Bolivian mine allows mercury use and is located in a National Park. The Colombian mine is in the Choc , a department that has experienced significant armed conflict.
A tragedy for communities in northern Nigerian has revealed some of the hidden costs of gold jewelry. Over 160 people, mainly children, have died in Nigeria from exposure to lead released by small-scale gold mining. Looks like Zamfara state in Nigeria is another place where gold is tinged with the blood of poisoned communities.
Our No Dirty Gold campaign has released a new report on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) of gold and precious metals, The Quest for Responsible Small-scale Gold Mining. The report compares standards of initiatives aiming for responsibility in ASM of precious metals.
Small-scale mines can have serious community and environmental impacts. But if projects adopt mining standards that are responsible and most precautionary, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) could be a source of more responsibly mined gold. Adopting strong principles and standards for responsible ASM practices may allow miners to minimize harmful impacts and allow ASM to provide a net benefit to communities.
The following is the summary from the report: