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What is artisanal and small scale mining?

There is no one globally agreed definition, however artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) broadly refers to informal mining activities carried out by individuals, groups or communities using minimal technology or machinery. ASM is labour intensive but requires little specialist technology, knowledge or skill. The mining method differs depending on geology. ASM attracts economically disadvantaged and vulnerable people seeking a higher income, usually in the absence of other employment opportunities. It is also seen as an important alternative to less attractive or less profitable activity and as a chance to improve economic situations, especially when the world gold price rises. These miners produce just 10-15% of global gold supplies, but make up 90% of the labour force in the gold industry.

Why does Fairtrade focus on small scale miners?

Globally, roughly 30 million people earn a livelihood mining gold, characterised by high levels of poverty from disadvantaged parts of society with no other option but to turn to ASM. They often do not receive the full price for their gold – sometimes as little as 70% of the internationally agreed price. Most mining communities lack basic sanitation and access to clean and safe drinking water. They often have poor housing, little or no access to education and healthcare, and are financially unstable. Lack of transparency in supply chains makes it virtually impossible for consumers to know where and under what conditions the gold in their jewellery was mined. Mining laws are usually geared towards large-scale industrial mining and governments tend to give the large-scale industry preferential mining rights. This leaves small-scale miners, who find it hard to access legal mining rights, more vulnerable and pushes them into informal or illegal operations where working conditions are hazardous and health and safety measures are non-existent. The unskilled handling of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide poses severe risks to miners’ health and the natural environment around the mine.

Wouldn’t it be better to recycle unwanted gold instead of extracting more to limit the environmental impact of mining?

The jewellery industry has always recycled gold and precious metals, and around 30 percent of the global demand for gold is met from re-used gold. The remaining 70% is newly mined however, and on humanitarian grounds alone, it is an industry crying out for greater protection and justice for miners, which is where Fairtrade comes in. Using recycled gold could be considered to have neutral impact on livelihoods and the environment, whereas choosing Fairtrade Gold represents a positive choice – providing direct positive impacts for a more for miners, their communities and the planet. 

Where can I buy Fairtrade Gold

Over 70 jewellers are signed up to use Fairtrade Gold, with a further 200 goldsmiths also registered to work with Fairtrade Gold. The vast majority are small, independent jewellers, with the exception of Argos. Find out who is selling Fairtrade Gold near you.  And as with any product – if you don’t see Fairtrade Gold on offer, ask for it!

What is a Fairtrade Town?

We certify products, nothing else. But we do run campaigns with local community groups aimed at boosting awareness and understanding of trade issues, and promoting the buying of Fairtrade products as a way for everyone, no matter who they are, to use the power of their purchase to make a difference to the lives of farmers and workers. These campaigns have a set of goals and receive a certificate of congratulation from the Fairtrade Foundation when they are achieved. Once a local community declares its status as a Fairtrade Town (or university or faith group) it must be committed to continuing campaigning and awareness raising. 

What is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives. Read more here.

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