Netherlands highlights plight of small-scale miners

Good Gold’ gaining ground globally

Last Friday in Utrecht, The Netherlands Film Festival presented awards to the country’s top actors, directors and films of the industry. Surrounded by four Golden Girls at the event, the famous Dutch sisters Katja and Birgit Schuurman used the occasion to raise awareness of the circumstances of millions of miners around the world who work in small scale goldmines. 

Over 20 million people worldwide are directly employed in the informal economy in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), and over 100 million indirectly rely on the income that ASM miners generate. In particular, the conditions in ASM gold mines worldwide are often very poor. On a large scale poisonous mercury is being used, the mines are not safe, and miners work long hours but receive low prices for their gold, while the environment is being needlessly damaged in the process. However, the miners and their families often live in rural areas and have no alternative source of income to build their livelihoods. If ASM is done in a more responsible way, it can be a powerful driver for positive change in many of the 70 countries where small-scale gold mining takes place today.

‘Good Gold’ bracelet

Katja Römer-Schuurman received a ‘Good Gold’ bracelet from Peruvian miner Santiago Ramirez, this year at the launch of the Fairtrade & Fairmined (FTFM) standard. In a symbolic gesture she handed out a bracelet to her sister Birgit at the festival to encourage cooperation ‘on our way to Good Gold.’

“We still know so little about the origin of our food, our clothes and our jewelry. The campaign “On our way to Good Gold’ from Solidaridad, makes us aware of the fact that the dire circumstances of small-scale miners should change. And that it is possible to make the change! Let’s not only embellish ourselves,” says Birgit.

Investing in development

According to Jennifer Horning, Solidaridad’s International Progamme Coordinator for Gold, the organisation believes in enabling those who depend on this sector to reinvest their mining revenue in their own livelihood development. “Miners who are candidates for FTFM certification must agree to formalize and legalize their operations and adopt environmental and social safeguards. In return, the standard requires that buyers pay the miners at least 95 per cent of the market price for the gold they produce. Mining association earns a 10 to 15 percent premium that must be reinvested for community benefits, such as better access to water or schooling, or income diversification projects. This extra income is a powerful incentive for miners,” she says.

To date, over 2000 miners have participated with Solidaridad across six countries. In total, five mining associations in Latin America have been certified as Fairtrade and Fairmined producers and 60 jewellers have bought certified gold. This year Solidaridad began the first pilot projects for certification in Africa. 


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