Buying Wisely - Types of Traceable Gold with Sarah Royce-Greensill
The diamond industry’s supply chain has become more transparent thanks to consumer pressure. But next to nothing is known about the gold that houses those stones. Behind the tempting gleam all too often lies the ugly side of gold mining: environmental destruction, chemical poisoning, dangerous working conditions and pitiful pay. Child labour is common in unregulated, illegal gold mines. It’s time for consumers to demand better.
Less than one percent of the world’s gold is traceable. But that small percentage can change the industry for good. From Fairmined and Fairtrade to traceable recycled gold and Single Mine Origin, consumers have the power to champion the right choice. By understanding the different types of ‘good gold’ and buying from jewellers who work with these ethical metals, consumers can start to effect a long-term change.
Fairtrade & Fairmined Gold
Over 100 million people worldwide rely on the income generated by gold mining. But the majority of mining occurs in unregulated, unsafe small-scale mines that are rife with corruption. Fairtrade and Fairmined were established by Fairtrade International and the Alliance for Responsible mining, to ensure that miners are paid a fair price, that no child labour is used, and that the proceeds benefit the surrounding community.
To be granted Fairtrade or Fairmined certification, mines must adhere to strict environmental, health and safety standards, including the responsible use of chemicals. A relatively small number of artisanal mines have achieved Fairmined status, so there is a limited supply of such gold and it carries a price premium for jewellers that’s often passed on to consumers.
Ecological Fairmined Gold
For those not content with the safe use of toxic chemicals, Ecological Fairmined Gold guarantees that no mercury or cyanide is used in the mining process; instead, miners use gravimetric processes. Currently only two artisanal mines (in Mongolia and Peru) can produce certified Fairmined Ecological Gold. As the supply is so limited, and miners are paid a premium for working in this way, it carries the highest price tag of any traceable gold.
By its very nature, gold has been repeatedly melted and reused for generations. Previously, recycled gold was mixed with newly mined material; now, refineries are offering 100% recycled gold. The plentiful supply could radically reduce the need for gold mining and the associated environmental consequences.
But not all recycled gold can claim to be ethical. More often than not, the metal’s origins are unknown. Gold mined by children in illegal, unsafe mines could be shipped, melted down and refined, then labelled as recycled.
Consumers should look instead for recycled gold of known provenance, such as recycled e- waste, for a transparent supply chain that can truthfully be called sustainable. When each ton of electronic waste yields ten times as much gold as each ton of the earth’s ore, it’s clear that we can look beyond mining the earth for a steady supply of precious metal.
Single Mine Origin Gold
Small-scale mines might be cleaning up their act, but they account for only 10% of global gold production. A mass-market solution must come from industrial mines. Single Mine Origin gold provides this solution.
SMO gold originates from a number of different mines, Yanfolila mine in Mali and mining powerhouse Endeavour has also joined the SMO movement which has significantly bolstered supply. The number of gold mines joining the SMO movement is growing. SMO sets the standard for large-scale responsible mining. From mercury-free practices to a completely transparent supply chain, its gold can be traced from the ground to the jewellery it becomes. Customers receive QR codes to understand where their gold was mined and how local people benefitted: from investment in schools and healthcare to developing alternative livelihoods that will sustain the community long after the mine closes.
As more mines become SMO accredited, it will become a no-brainer for jewellers and consumers alike to champion the good that responsible gold mining can bring.
Please see Sarah's curated SMO jewellery edit here.