The gold in the image above is from the Fairtrade Gold bar shown below.
While large-scale mining is about the politics of greed, small-scale mining is about survival. In context of Fairtrade, it is about the people of the land controlling and benefitting from the resources of the land!
Back in the 1980s and early nineties, small-scale mining was the only means of support in this arid area of Peru. The miners, approximately 900 of them, had to carry oil, logs and water to the mining site. There, they would work twelve-hour days, pounding the earth with picks and shovels to fill sacks with earth which needed to be crushed into fine powder.
The miners mixed the dirt with water, allowing gold to sink. This gold was mixed with mercury to form an amalgam.
The mercury was burned off without any protection, creating methylmercury, one of the most dangerous of all neurotoxins.
Small-scale mining is the second largest contributor, after coal fired plants, of global mercury pollution.
Plus, because of inefficiencies, up to 50% of the gold was not retrieved from the ore. Miners lost additional revenue from middle men who took 30% to 40% or more of the gold’s true international value.
For the small-scale miner in the Arequipa it was an endless cycle of struggle and poverty.
"Mercury and gold mixed into an amalgam by a small scale miner in Kenya outside of the Fairtrade Gold supply chain."
Fairtrade builds capacity within the mines, sending in special engineers to teach the miners best practices. This enables them to meet Fairtrade standards and mine safely without mercury contamination. This is not an easy process. The mine itself began working toward Fairtrade certification in 2009, and achieved its certification in 2015.
During this time, the mine became more mechanized. New machinery and mills were purchased. Now, instead of processing five tonnes a day, the miners can now process up to 120 tonnes a day, which results in about 25 kilos a month.
Today, the mining society employs 350 people and supports an additional 600 people in the surrounding community. With Fairtrade certification, Macdesa sells all its production to international buyers.
Our gold is purchased from the miners at 99% of international spot price. Additionally, a Fairtrade premium of $2000 per kilo is given to the community, which is then used to fund business courses, additional mining concessions and equipment which increases revenues.
In Macdesa, Fairtrade certification has essentially been critical in breaking the cycle of poverty. It has allowed the community to invest in basic human services, such as healthcare, education and electricity. One particular focus of the shareholders of the mine is to provide better education and internet access to the children. The community also hopes to fund its hospital with better equipment which in turn can serve the entire region.
It is not only the mine that is audited, but even our shop on Baca Street in Santa Fe, NM. Fairtrade sends out an auditor to review our documents to assure that we too are upholding our part to trace and track the Fairtrade Gold as it moves through our own manufacturing process.
You get gold that in its sourcing aligns with your most heartfelt values, and support our common desire to create the more beautiful world we know is possible.
This image shows the gold bar shipped from the Macdesa mine to our supplier in England in March 2018.