Mine to Maker: a glimpse of the reality faced by some mining communities in Busia, Uganda, and their journey with Fairtrade to improve their lives (Ian Berry)
The first Fairtrade gold from Africa hit the UK last month and the first pieces of jewellery will be available to buy by Christmas.
When giving the gift of jewellery a lot of thought and time goes into choosing the right colour and style of gold, and the size and clarity of the diamond.
However, how the gold and diamonds are mined is not one something many of us consider. The brutal reality is that the stories behind these tokens of love and commitment are often ones of child labour, mercury poisoning and exploitation.
Unless, that is, you buy from a more responsible source.
Creating Fairtrade mines in Uganda has been a three-year process, supported by Comic Relief funding. To become Fairtrade-certified mines have to meet basic health and safety regulations – such as not using a the same bowl to wash a baby and pan for gold with mercury.
The miners are also guaranteed 95 per cent of the internationally agreed price (LMBA) of gold, plus a Fairtrade premium of £1,500 per kilogram that’s used to invest in community projects such as building schools, hospitals and creating access to electricity.
Before Fairtrade, the miners were only receiving 60 per cent of the LMBA price for their gold and the average daily wage was just 75p – £1.50.
The UK has been selling a small amount of Fairtrade gold from Peru since 2011.
“The launch was very significant,” says Tim Ingle, of ethical jeweller Ingle & Rhode.
“It gave credibility to the fact that there’s an issue around gold mining and also provided a credible solution.”
Director of Cred jewellery, Alan Frampton, has visited the Peru mines every six months for the past six years. He says: “We have to know who is producing our gold and under what conditions. When we tell this story to our customers, it becomes very personal.”
Ethical jewellery still isn’t mass market, although it’s becoming more popular as Millennials, in particular, insist on better traceability.
Access to technology and increased awareness is helping the miners demand better conditions, too.
“Before, we didn’t know what the price of gold was, or how we could find out. Now we take our phones out and Google the price,” says Josephine Aguttu, a mine worker from an organisation working towards Fairtrade certification.
“We were silenced by the middlemen, but now we are organised we’re not so easy to manipulate.”
READ MORE: YOUR GUIDE TO BUYING ETHICAL JEWELLERY