Josephine Aguttu has been a gold miner since she was 12, as soon as she was physically able to help her mother down the mine. She is one of the 16 million men, women and children working in the small scale gold mines of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Paid little, exposed to mercury and cyanide and at the mercy of middle men, this is the life of 90% of gold miners. Codes of practice only exist for the 10% in large mining companies.
But Josephine’s life has changed since Fairtrade became involved. Encouraged to organise themselves into a group (TIIRA Small Scale Mining Association), the miners learned how to work safely, to reduce the risk of tunnels collapsing and protect themselves and the environment from mercury and cyanide poisoning. With the knowledge they gained, and their strength as an organised group, they are now less vulnerable to exploitation.
Prescott’s Fairtrade Gold ring design – mine’s having a central sapphire!
Here in the UK, 200 goldsmiths have already signed up to design and make jewellery using Fairtrade Gold. New gold, traceable back to the mine, certified at every stage and stamped with the Fairtrade mark at the assay office – what could be better! This is new. Only 16% of the UK population has heard of Fairtrade Gold. If we want it, we have to ask our favourite jewellers for it. That’s exactly what I have been doing in Beverley! Searching for a local jeweller to replace my lost engagement ring with a Fairtrade Gold version, Prescott’s were able to immediately confirm that they could supply Fairtrade Gold. Guest & Philips, Daniela Draper and Hugh Rice might be able to supply it, but Samuel Lawrence would not. I also discovered that Argos has a huge range of white and yellow Fairtrade Gold wedding bands.
Currently, 1000 tonnes of mercury is released into the environment every year by small scale mining. We can change that by choosing Fairtrade gold. Your choice can improve the lives of small scale gold miners and allow children to go to school instead of working down mines. Depending on how much gold is sold as certified Fairtrade, mining groups are paid an annual Fairtrade premium which they collectively decide how to invest for the benefit of their wider communities. Healthcare, education, transport, electricity and investment in the mine itself, are examples of the choices made, thanks to Fairtrade.
You can find out more about Fairtrade Gold and where to buy it at fairtrade.org.uk/gold
Ros Cherry Burton Fairtrade Group www.cherryburtonftlp.org