Jewelry had a special sparkle on the other side of the Channel for Valentine’s Day yesterday, as “Fairtrade & Fairmined” certified gold went on sale for the first time in the UK.
20 local jewelry companies – amongst which the Queen of England’s jeweler Garrard and ethical jewelers Cred Jewellery, Fifi Bijoux and Ute Decker – were the first worldwide to launch co-labeled jewelry pieces, bearing the Fairtrade and Fairmined Marks.
This historical step forward is the opportunity for My Green Lifestyle to give you an overview of what is now known as “fair gold” and share its secrets with you…
Gold jewelry is associated most of the time with love, romance and beauty. But all too often, there is nothing pretty about the way that gold is mined: ‘The reality of gold production is at complete odds with what consumers imagine.’ says Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation.
So let’s to run a little check right now…
Did you know? Here is what we discovered…
Though artisanal and small-scale mining produces 10% of annual global gold supplies, it accounts for 90% of gold extraction labor. 15 million miners work most of the time in appalling conditions, often lacking basic sanitation, safe drinking water and access to health and education services. Daily exposure to toxic chemicals used in gold-processing, such as mercury, cyanide and nitric acid cause miners to develop diseases such as brain and nervous system damage.
Given their vulnerable position in the supply chain, many miners also face exploitation. They get a raw deal, despite their strenuous efforts, from unscrupulous middle men who pay below market prices and cheat on weight and purity of gold content. (See Fairtrade Foundation report published on Valentine’s Day for more information.)
So how does the “Fairtrade & Fairmined” gold certification provide solutions to these issues?
Fairtrade and Fairmined certification was designed by the Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) and the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), in a joint effort to secure a fairer deal for gold miners and their communities at social, environmental and economic levels.
Fair gold certification ensures that miners adhere to a set of standards, guaranteeing that gold is produced in a safe way for people and the environment. This includes the application of safe and responsible practices to recover gold, like reducing or eliminating where possible chemical use to a minimum.
In return, miners receive a Fairtrade price for their gold (set at a minimum of 95% of the international agreed price vs. mainstream 30% to 85%), plus the Fairtrade premium to invest in community projects (education, health, and environmental restoration) as well as business development projects (technology and working conditions improvement).
Cotapata Mining Cooperative in Bolivia is the first Fairtrade and Fairmined mining organization to be certified. Others in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are expected to be certified in the coming weeks. A network of pilot projects will also be initiated in Africa later this year and then in Asia, enabling more miners to join the system.
Initially launched in the UK only, certified fair gold will be progressively rolled-out to other countries with the long-term goal of capturing 5% of the gold jeweler market over a 15-year period.
Thanks to these new standards, a wider range of alternatives to conventional gold should soon be available on the market. That’s good news for Valentine’s Day… next year!
For more information about Faitrade and Fairmined gold, visit the dedicated website that went live yesterday: www.fairgold.org
Marie & Julie