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A fair go for gold

During my early days as a jeweller, troubling images of filthy mines with poor working conditions prompted me to research alternative gold sources. This led me to become Australia’s first licensed supplier of Fairtrade Certified Gold, a qualification which guarantees the gold I work with has been mined and sold according to Fairtrade standards.

However, there is confusion about what Fairtrade Gold is. Basically, Fairtrade gold is just gold! It doesn’t differ in composition or quality to gold from any other source. The difference is that Fairtrade Gold has the power to create better opportunities for disadvantaged miners and communities.

Around 90 percent of the world’s gold producing workforce is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM). There are 16 million of these miners and almost all of them work in illegal conditions with little access to sanitation or education.

Often, ASM gold ends up being sold at as low as 70 percent of the international market price. Because of this, these miners are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They have no money to invest in improving their operations and no way of creating more efficient, sustainable mining practices. Without safe methods for gold extraction, in many cases they are forced to spend their days standing in pools of mercury.

International laws protect those involved in large-scale mining and prevent hazardous practices like the unsafe use of mercury; but in practice, these laws do nothing to benefit small-scale miners.

"In accordance with fairtrade principles, a fixed proportion of profits go to the community, mainly to help provide water and electricity"

While most gold from bullion dealers in Australia is sourced from big mines which meet environmental guidelines and approved OHS standards, the point of using Fairtrade gold is to support change in an area that desperately needs it.

Fairtrade gold is still sourced from small scale, artisanal mines, however there is a major difference; the miners are guaranteed a fair price for their efforts. Premiums paid by buyers are provided to the administrators to spend on improving their business, or on projects that benefit their local community.

Fairtrade assistance allows formerly illegal miners to be registered and to receive appropriate training and support. The result is better, more efficient business practices and the opportunity to generate more sales on better terms.

Our business uses gold sourced from the Sotrami mine in Peru, which is one of only a handful of mines to be Fairtrade accredited.

Sotrami began with just a few workers in the 1980s and now supports a village of 3,000 people. It is cooperatively owned and the workers run a committee that enables them to hold the administrators accountable. In accordance with Fairtrade principles, a fixed proportion of profits go to the community, mainly to help provide water and electricity.

The pay at Sotrami is good by industry standards. Those in charge of the mine have made a conscious attempt to minimise environmental impact by avoiding the use of mercury and controlling the use of other chemicals.

Many of my clients get in touch because their own search for ethical products has led them to my website. They come to me with numerous questions about Fairtrade gold and ethically sourced gemstones, which I am pleased to answer.

My customers are very informed and I take pride in being able to share my knowledge with them.

They leave delighted, not only because they have a one-of-a-kind wedding or engagement ring, but also because they are thrilled to have an ethical Fairtrade product with a positive story behind it. In most cases, they don’t mind paying the small premium in return for knowing the gold in their ring was ethically sourced.

Fairtrade is inching its way towards the mainstream. I am looking forward to a future where more providers are proud to tell their clients that their gold has been mined with a lower impact to the planet, and in a way that benefits the people who source it.

Fairtrade gold is available in 24ct grain, 18ct white and yellow stock gauge, and is available from Fairtrade certified bullion dealers in the UK and Europe.

Applying for a license is a fairly simply process managed through Fairtrade Australia. More:

Name: Zoe Pook
Business: Zoe Pook
Position: Owner
Location: Wahroonga, NSW
Years in the industry: 12

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Monday, 01 June, 2020 02:52pm
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Peter W Beck
SAMS Group Australia
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