Solidaridad started its work on Gold in 2006 in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. While this sector employs the greatest number of people, industrial mining still supplies over 80 percent of newly-mined gold each year and can cause serious impacts on communities and the environment.
More and more, consumers and companies want to know that the gold they buy was mined responsibly and is not linked to the serious problems in the mining industry, such as water pollution from cyanide, dangerous conditions for workers, or conflict in the Great Lakes region in Africa. Too often, mining in developing countries does not lead to better livelihoods. This is because international companies bring many employees from abroad rather than hiring and training local people. And, royalties that go to national governments are not always re-invested in a way that meets community development goals. Gold mining should open up new opportunities for people in communities that host mines.
Recognizing this, Solidaridad’s Gold Programme launched an innovative pilot project in 2011 to encourage gold mining companies to meet international standards and support broader development goals in their communities. In the project, Solidaridad is partnering with mining companies to set targets for better social and environmental practices. Mining companies will work toward meeting those targets over two years, with support from Solidaridad. Our focus will be on making sure that the mine applies the best practice in its own operations. But, an important part of the pilot project from Solidaridad’s perspective is exploring how a company may be able to contribute to more meaningful development in host communities, beyond the mine itself. This may include, for example, enabling artisanal and small-scale miners working nearby to formalise and adopt better practices themselves, with support from Solidaridad. This can lead to better livelihoods for the miners and their families.
Responsible Jewellery Council
An important tool for setting credible targets is the use of third-party certification, which is still very new to the mining industry. Based on the outcome of a recent study of standards used in mining, Solidaridad has chosen to work with the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) standard, or “Code of Practices”, which ranked highest in the study. Importantly, RJC sets good criteria and requires companies to hire third-party auditors to verify compliance. Though the standard is brand new and still has areas for improvement, Solidaridad believes that RJC can be a useful tool for companies to use in improving their practices. We hope to put this idea to the test in our pilot project and share our lessons learned with others.
To encourage more mining companies to join us over time, Solidaridad is currently in talks with leading branded jewellers who want to do business with responsible mining companies that agree to third-party certification. Together, we will pilot test traceable supply chains from participating mines and explain to other jewellers and the public how we are working together towards better practices.
To read about Solidaridad’s first partner mine, Minera Yanaquihua in Arequipa, Peru, read our press