A golden opportunity: New Fairtrade standards for gold jewellery
March 18, 2010 by George Walker
The launch of a new Fairtrade and Fairmined certification in the always profitable but often unfair industry of gold production will mean gold miners can improve their lives through better pay, fairer working conditions and extraction processes that won’t harm the local environments. But how far do the new standards go and can they really change the industry as a whole? George Walker looks at what the new scheme means for ethical jewellery lovers, gold miners and the future of gold production.
Although many jewellers and craftspeople using gold want to make sure their creations come out of a safe and fair industry, there has been no real certification of fair trading standards in the gold mining industries. Until now that is.
The new Fairtrade and Fairmining standards set up by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) and Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) seek to create a guarantee for fair working conditions which will offer new opportunities and safe working conditions for artisanal workers and miners.
Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “The launch of Fairtrade and Fairmined standards for gold provides a lifeline for communities who find themselves at the mercy of unbalanced markets, when agriculture and other livelihoods are not viable. Many face exploitation from middle men who pay below market prices and cheat them on weight and purity of the gold content. Mining community members lack basic sanitation, clean and safe drinking water, poor housing, little or no access to education and health care and are financially unstable. The Fairtrade and Fairmined standards are an important development tool, and will complement other development interventions.”
- A Fairtrade minimum price for the gold set at 95% of the market value set by the London Bullion Market
- Gold that is extracted through environmentally friendly processes will be paid for at a higher price
- The promotion of workers’ groups to financially and socially empower the workforce
- Certified miners must ensure safe working conditions
But what does this new form of certification mean for everyday consumers? Well, we’ve hear that some of the top ethical jewellers in the UK are queueing up to meet the new standards. One of our favourite jewellery design houses, CRED, was actually a founding member of the Alliance for Responsible Mining and they’ve worked closely with all the organisations involved to ensure the new certification will be truly effective.
Greenmystyle.com spoke to the Director of CRED jewellery, Christian Cheesman, about his views on how these new standards will affect the gold industry. He said: “I think the standard will help as the Fairtrade mark is very well known and respected. It will bring a measure of clarity to the ‘ethical’ jewellery world which will help people understand the choices they can make/are making.” And are the standards far-reaching enough? “The standards are a good start” said Cheesman, although admitting that ”we [CRED] would have preferred a tighter line on the use of mercury but understand the pragmatics. For CRED we will be exclusively using Fairtrade green (no chemicals)”
As the Director of CRED points out, an important aspect of the new standards is the focus on making the gold mining industry more environmentally friendly, but this is one aspect that will be an ongoing challenge. Manuel Reinoso Rivas, President of the Association of Artisanal Miner Producers of Central and Southern Peru, and ARM Board member said: “We need to learn how to use clean, non-polluting technologies that will not only preserve our environment but also help us recover increased quantities of metals. ”
The new standards were piloted by the Alliance for Responsible Mining with nine legally established mining organisations in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The certification will now be open to applications from all small-scale and artisanal gold mining organizations in Latin America. More producer organisations from Latin America are expected to join the system in 2011 along with projects in Africa and Asia.
For more information on the new standards, take a look at the Fairtrade Foundation website.
Image: CRED Jewellery’s gold wedding rings and ‘Forget Me Not’ white gold ring.