Valentines Day will see the world’s first Fairtrade certified gold go on sale after a new partnership between the Fair Trade Foundation and Bolivian mining co-operative, Cotapata.
An estimated 15 million people work in artisanal and small-scale mines worldwide, often enduring appalling working conditions and exposure to highly toxic chemicals such as mercury. It has been estimated that 20 tonnes of toxic mine waste is created by the production of just one gold wedding band.
Fair Trade Foundation executive director Harriet Lamb said the reality of gold production was 'completely at 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.'
Twenty jewellers, including heavy-hitters Garrard and Ingle & Rhode, have already agreed to sell the gold, which will go on sale from Monday in the UK. The Fair Trade Foundation hopes to roll it out in other countries over the coming months and aims to capture at least five percent of the gold jewellery market by 2026.
Currently, only one mine has been certified – the Cotapata mine in Bolivia – but more mines in Peru and Colombia are due to receive certification within the next couple of months. The Fairtrade minimum price for gold is set at 95 per cent of the London Bullion Market Association’s (LBMA) fix – the international agreed price for gold.
Currently, mining companies receive anywhere between 30 and 85 per cent of the LBMA fix. Miners will earn an additional premium of five per cent of the LBMA fix when they switch to mining without mercury or cyanide. ‘Now we are Fairtrade, we are receiving a premium,’ said Juana Pena Endara, Senior President of the Cotopata Mining Co-operative. ‘The first thing we will do is buy a smelter and some machinery so we can produce more.’
Manuel Reinoso Rivas, Vice Chairman of the ARM Board of Directors at the soon to be certified Oro Verde mine in Peru, said: ‘The Fairtrade premium really will bring huge benefits to our communities.’
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