THE IMPACT OF USING TOXIC CHEMICALS TO EXTRACT GOLD
ON MINERS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The environmental impacts of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) depend on where it occurs, but can include deforestation, land degradation through air, water and soil pollution from dust, mud or toxic substances, as well as devastating impacts on local wildlife. There are severe risks to health from daily contact with toxic chemicals such as mercury, nitric acid and cyanide used to process gold. Chronic mercury poisoning can result in speech disturbances, lack of concentration, depression, muscular atrophy and seizures.
ASM is the biggest source of mercury air and water pollution in the world, contaminating soils and water supplies leading to degradation of agricultural land and also entering the human food chain through soil-grown foods and fish. However ASM is not significantly dirtier per unit of output than large-scale mining activities, and since ASM processes much less ore than large-scale mining per ounce of gold, the magnitude of its impact on the land is much smaller. The environmental issues associated with ASM stem from the fact that unlike large-scale mining, it is largely unregulated and therefore harder to manage responsibly.
WHAT MAKES FAIRTRADE GOLD ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND WEDDING BANDS DIFFERENT?
All pit miners must be over the age of 18 and cannot work more than 8 hours a day. A percentage of the profits are invested back into the mine and the local community. Miners have union representatives from different areas of the mine. These representatives work with the mine owner in order to make changes and improvements in the mine and local communities. Methods are used in the mining process to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide which can have detrimental affects on the health of miners and the environment.
WHAT FAIRTRADE MEANS FOR THE MINERS
Fairtrade Gold is an initiative that offers a lifeline to poor and exploited small-scale miners around the world. Millions of people worldwide rely on small-scale gold mining to survive. Most of them work in harsh conditions with no health and safety regulations, and many of them do not receive a fair price for the gold that they produce. Gold certified to Fairtrade standards provides small-scale miners and their communities in developing countries the opportunity to improve their living and working conditions, building a secure future for miners, their families and communities.
Fairtrade Gold is independently audited in line with criteria set out by Fairtrade International (FLO) to enable artisanal and small-scale miners to improve their livelihoods, giving assurances to retailers and consumers that the miners are getting a fair deal for their work. Under the Fairtrade system, communities of small-scale miners conform to specific standards and are rewarded a fair price for artisanal gold, plus a premium per kilo that goes towards building their community.
Ninety per cent of the labour force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce between 200-300 tonnes of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewellery, with consumers across the globe spending a whopping $135 billion a year on gold jewellery!
An estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining for their livelihoods and to support their families and communities. Small-scale miners often work long days and in difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions. There are serious health risks associated with the improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide, which can be used in the extraction process. Miners struggle to attract the finance or generate sufficient profits needed to invest in their operations or safer, more efficient technology.
Small-scale miners are at the end of long and complex supply chains and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price. For Fairtrade gold, miners receive a guaranteed Fair Minimum Price and a Premium to spend on improving their businesses or on community projects, such as education, clean water and healthcare. Fairtrade certification means these small scale-miners meet Fairtrade standards. This can help them to improve their mining and business practices as well as open the market to generate more sales on better terms. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labour and protection of the environment.
WHAT CHEMICALS ARE NORMALLY USED DURING THE FAIRTRADE PROCESS?
Currently all Fairtrade certified mining organisations use cyanidation to process their gold, however, the pilot groups they are working with in East Africa use mercury. The Fairtrade Standards require mining organisations which use mercury and cyanide to do so at the highest standards of health and safety for miners. In the case of mercury, this means using personal protective equipment (gloves, masks etc) when amalgamating the mercury with gold, and using retorts, a simple piece of equipment which captures mercury vapour when burning the amalgam.
HELP US PROMOTE FAIRTRADE GOLD FOR THE FUTURE
There are worries that the jewellery industry is ‘too traditional’ and many consumers still don’t know about sustainability. Last autumn, market research found that only three percent of consumers know about Fairtrade Gold, compared to sixty-four percent who know about Fairtrade tea and coffee, and half who know about Fairtrade chocolate.
Although Fairtrade gold has been embraced by many in the jewellery industry, there is still so much more we can do. As long as this innovative way of ethical trading can continue to grow, there’s hope that it can be adopted by other gold miners who haven’t yet experienced what it means to receive fair treatment.
After all, isn’t it about time that they experienced the good that humanity has to offer?
WE ARE A FAIRTRADE
The Fairtrade gold we use is of identical quality to their non-ethically mined counterparts with the added benefit of being socially responsible for the communities who rely on the gold mines for their livelihood.
Ethica Diamonds are Fairtrade registered jewellers and we promote the development of a Fairtrade gold system that will guarantee fair wages, promote economic growth, and empower mining communities.
Be proud to wear your gold jewellery from us knowing that it has helped the people of the mining communities, not harmed them.
If you would like to order your engagement ring or wedding ring in Fairtrade Gold, look for the options in our drop-down menus online.
If the item is available in Fairtrade metal, this will appear on the relevant website page. Alternatively, please contact us for a quote on any other item.
FAIRTRADE GOLD OFFERS BUYERS REASSURANCE THAT THE GOLD HAS BEEN SOURCED IN A WAY THAT GIVES BACK TO SMALL MINING COMMUNITIES AND IS 100% TRACEABLE WITH SOLID ETHICAL ASSURANCES
FAIRTRADE GOLD – WHITE GOLD VS YELLOW GOLD
It is important to note that the Fairtrade Gold used in 18k Gold engagement rings and wedding bands is alloyed with other precious metals. It is the gold content itself which is 100% ethically sourced. Most of the Palladium, Copper and Rhodium applied to Fairtrade Gold tends to originate from re-cycled sources. In addition, remember that we can supply Fairtrade Gold engagement and wedding rings in white or yellow gold.
All Fairtrade Gold engagement rings and wedding rings created at Ethica Diamonds feature the Fairtrade logo, stamped within the ring. This will appear as a stamp or laser hallmarked within the item. This provides the reassurance that the gold within the ring has been sourced from a Fairtrade mine, and can be tracked from the mine to the final finished piece of jewellery.
FAIRTRADE GOLD & ETHICAL
Based in Cornwall and established in 2010, Ethica Diamonds are an award winning ethical diamond jewellery company dedicated to sustainability and fair business practices.
We specialise in hand forged bespoke man made diamond jewellery and we pride ourselves in being able to offer something to fit everyones budget. We offer face to face meetings by appointment at our consultation showroom in the heart of Truro which begins a very personal intimate journey often marking a very special time.
Everything is individually made to order for engagement, weddings and special occasions and everything we produce is of the highest standard using both Fairtrade Gold or recycled surface precious metals.
We also carry out all jewellery repairs and can remodel existing jewellery in our dedicated workshop.
LEARN MORE ABOUT FAIRTRADE’S WORK WITH GOLD AND PRECIOUS METALS AT: