Why choose Fairtrade gold?
With Fairtrade Fortnight (29 February until 13 March 2016) well underway, much of the attention will focus on the daily staples such as coffee, tea, bananas and chocolate. They are highly visible in most supermarkets, and most consumers are aware of the Fairtrade options that are available to them.
It's been twenty-five years since Fairtrade coffee was launched in Holland, and twenty years since the first Fairtrade products arrived in the UK, but it wasn't until 2011 that Fairtrade gold was launched. Being newer to the scene, it's perhaps not surprising that Fairtrade gold has yet to establish high levels of consumer awareness.
Recent research suggested that only three percent of consumers are aware of Fairtrade gold, versus fifty percent who know about Fairtrade chocolate and sixty-four percent who are familiar with Fairtrade tea and coffee. That being said, the latest figures from the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK are very encouraging for all those involved in the production and sale of Fairtrade gold: volume sales of Fairtrade gold increased by 440% in the UK in 2015.
Asked to comment by Ingle & Rhode, Victoria Waugh from the Fairtrade Foundation said:
"This Fairtrade Fortnight we're asking people to buy Fairtrade products for breakfast to help ensure the farmers and workers that put food on our table can feed their own families. The miners who produce the gold in our jewellery face similar challenges and by choosing Fairtrade gold you can play a role in supporting them to improve their lives too."
So what is Fairtrade gold?
According to the Fairtrade Foundation, to be labelled as 'Fairtrade' a small-scale mining community needs to meet specific standards on 'working conditions, child labour, women’s rights, clean technology, health and safety, organisational management, democratic decision-making, transparency and traceability of their mining operations and responsible environmental management'. These are essentially the same standards that apply to any Fairtrade product.
In return for maintaining these standards, the miners are guaranteed a minimum price of 95% of the LBMA (London Bullion Market Association). On top of this they also receive a premium of US$2,000 per kilo of gold to be invested back into their community. The idea is to protect them from exploitation, and to help them provide their families with a decent standard of living.
Globally, there are fifteen million small-scale gold miners, and a further hundred million people who depend on them for survival. These miners account for 10-15% of global production, but make up around 90% of the workforce. Many of them are children, and they often work in unsafe conditions, facing a lifetime of backbreaking labour as they struggle to earn a living. They generally don’t have access to the international markets, making it almost impossible for them to get paid a fair price for their gold - their work goes to line the pockets of middlemen gold dealers.
After several years of consultations, the first Fairtrade gold reached the market in 2011, and according to the Fairtrade Foundation, the Fairtrade mining cooperatives sold 170kg of Fairtrade gold to the global market in 2015, generating a 'Fairtrade premium' of US$340,000 on top of the selling price to invest in community projects.
Currently, there are two certified Fairtrade gold producers, both in Peru: Sotrami (Sociedad de Trabajadores Mineros) and Macdesa (Minera Aurifera Cuatro de Enero S.A).
In addition, there are nine small-scale mining cooperatives in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania currently working towards to becoming Fairtrade-certified. Over the next four years the African Gold Programme will help them to improve the safety, cleanliness and productivity of their mining sites by improving their access to finance and training. Once the African mines become Fairtrade-certified, they will add a further 44kg gold to volumes available to international Fairtrade markets.
All images courtesy of Nigel Wright.