Gold symbolizes prosperity, reward, love, commitment and so much more, but shouldn’t it also shine brightly in the lives of the Peruvian miner digging deep underground, or the mother from Ghana who supports three children by working in a gold mine? These are the lives gold touches every day.
Jewellery & Awards
For the athlete who sees years of hard work culminate in success, or the newlyweds making a loving commitment, gold carries a significant emotional weight. A gold medal in the Olympics trumps that of silver or bronze; Oscars and Grammy awards are all cast in gold; and, throughout history, humans have worn and traded gold as a symbol of prestige, power, love, commitment and beauty.
Currently jewellery use accounts for just over 50% of worldwide gold demand. Gold is not only a precious metal with a unique lustre – it does not varnish, is very easy to work, can be drawn into wire, can be hammered into sheets, and can be melted and cast into intricate shapes.
Cell phones are a veritable gold mine. Nowadays gold is in just about every phone, computer, calculator, satellite, and many other digital gadgets. In fact, gold is the most reliable electrical conductor and hence a driver of the information revolution.
The most important industrial use of gold is in manufacturing electronic devices. Estimates place the amount gold in each phone at about 0.034 grams, or 50 cents worth, in each of the one billion phones produced each year. In many senses the new gold rush is your old phone.
Who knew gold could save your life? Gold is used in surgical equipment, life support devices, and as a drug to treat a small number of medical conditions such as arthritis and certain cancers. Gold is favoured in life support devices because it is non-reactive and highly reliable.
Given the recent invention and application of much of this technology, it becomes clear that many of today’s uses for gold have developed rather recently. This – along with the steady demand for even smaller electronics – means that the overall demand for gold is set to rise as we see new breakthroughs in life-saving medical technology.
Ending the poverty cycle
Globally there are around 25 million people employed in small-scale mining, 3 million in the industrial sector, and over 100 million people indirectly dependent on gold mining. Although many small-scale miners earn enough to live, many more miners, both industrial and small-scale, are at risk of staying trapped in the poverty cycle.
Numerous miners remain in the informal sector and do not receive fair prices for their gold and face a higher risk of exploitation. Why mine? Small-scale miners often turn to this profession because there are few viable economic alternatives.
Unacceptable working conditions are also encountered by miners. A lack health and safety equipment, and operating under the threat of mineshafts collapsing and mercury poisoning are a part of many miners’ daily experiences.
Mine operators struggle too. Most do not get fair prices for their gold as they have no direct access to markets. This leaves operators open to exploitation. Even when operators want to improve conditions in their mines, they can expect little support from governments and aid agencies.
Many have no access to education or adequate healthcare. Gender equality is not respected and child labour can occur. And this leave families trapped in a poverty cycle from which they cannot break out.
Those in mining communities face negative impacts due to hazardous conditions, the presence of diseases such as HIV and malaria, as well as child labour and human trafficking. Yet this doesn’t have to be the case, together we can create change that matters. Changing gold mining transforms lives.
Lasting environmental damage
Today, many mining operations do not comply with internationally accepted standards. When mining and extraction are not properly managed, it can damage the environment, both today and for years to come.
Mining practices that are not responsible – in terms of people, the planet, and supply chains – create negative consequences for the water supply and some communities’ access to water. Water can be diverted from communities to mines and toxic run-off and erosion can pollute waterways.
Globally, mining uses up to 10% of the world’s energy and contributes to deforestation in protected areas and ecosystems, like rainforests. Local landscapes can suffer devastating losses to biodiversity when forests and indigenous flora plants are razed to make space for mines. Toxic acid mine drainage and metals runoff can damage ecosystems and agricultural potential for generations.
Until operators take a more responsible approach, mining will continue to contribute to climate change. Yet this doesn’t have to be the case. Together we can work to create change that matters. Changing gold mining preserves the environment.
Solidaridad’s global gold programme became a founding member of several new collaborative initiatives, such as the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals, which are expected to have a long-term global impact. At the same time, through new programmes in mining communities, Solidaridad is on track to double the size of its support to small-scale mining communities with a new focus on women’s empowerment. Solidaridad also laid the groundwork for innovative models to scale up successes, in particular through working with social entrepreneurs and impact investors.
Solidaridad received the results of four external evaluations from the first five years of its programme implementation in small and medium-sized gold mines. The lessons learned were valuable for Solidaridad and its partners, especially since 2015 marked the kick-off of our five-year strategic plan (2016-2020) as well as the start of three new projects and the extension of an ongoing project. This new work aims to extend responsible practices to at least 30 new mines.
Solidaridad supported Kering brand Gucci’s purchase of certified gold - 30 grams total. The size of Solidaridad's Gold Programme work in Ghana doubled.
In 2013 Solidaridad’s work in gold continued to grow and expanded with 4 new projects. The world’s first Fair Trade gold medal was also presented at the European Youth Olympics Festival. Each medal contained a drop of pure Fair Trade gold, marking the first time any medals containing any Fair Trade gold had been used.
Solidaridad’s ‘On our Way to Good Gold’ campaign was shortlisted under the non-governmental organisation category for the 2012 European Excellence Awards. Read more
Solidaridad began participating in the OECD forum for due diligence in the supply chains for gold and the “3Ts” (tin, tungsten and tantalum) to support ongoing efforts to reduce the trade in conflict minerals.
Solidaridad began gold work in Africa and joined the Steering Committee of the Responisble Jewellery Council (RJC).
Solidaridad launched Fair Trade and Fair Mined gold into the Netherlands by connecting 10 jewellers and their suppliers to mines in Solidaridad’s projects in Latin America. Media coverage of the introduction reached an audience of 8 million, making it one of Solidaridad’s most successful events ever.
Solidaridad began an innovative pilot project with the first industrial mine in Peru and launched the ‘On Our Way to Good Gold’ campaign in the Netherlands. The campaign has two goals: raise awareness of the need for better practices in the mining sector and inspire consumers and jewellers to take action to support Solidaridad’s work with mines.
The first Fair Trade Fair Mined gold was introduced to the market in the U.K.. Solidaridad partnered with the largest licensee, Stephen Webster, to raise awareness of the need for buyers to source certified gold. The first kilo of certified gold came from Cotapata mining association in Bolivia, which Solidaridad had supported since 2009.
Solidaridad designed a programme for working alongside industrial mines to certify their practices and to support meaningful development in nearby communities. Solidaridad also began to actively engage with European gold buyers to increase awareness and help transition the sector from conventional to responsible practices.
Solidaridad’s full gold programme launched and pilots in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia began. Nowadays five projects in Latin America have achieved certification.
Solidaridad, recognising the need for better practices and standards, began its first work in gold.
Reaching out to miners
In cooperation with our partners – from governments, the private sector, research institutes, foundations, local civil society organisations – we work with miners to improve their livelihoods. Currently many of the small-scale miners and communities situated close to large mines reap little benefit from the value of gold they help produce.
While we believe that certification can be a useful tool, it is not our final goal. Miners still need training to legalise and improve their environmental and social conditions in order to achieve certification. This can require months, or even years of commitment.
They also need access to markets at a fair price, which means connecting miners with certified buyers. This is a process that we support by proving innovative solutions towards building partnerships between buyers and miners.
We support miners in gaining legal status under national laws. We help facilitate programmes on land rights, environmental risk assessments, wage laws, input supplies, and labour rights that support miners in becoming part of the legal economy. Our approach channels assistance to where it is needed most: at gold mines, both small-scale and industrial, and their surrounding communities.
Through engaging with mining communities, we enable local inhabitants and miners to better care for the environment and preserve its resources. We focus on managing or eliminating mercury release, minimising erosion, respecting water supplies, addressing land use issues, maintaining biodiversity, and minimising acid mine drainage.
Engaging new partners
We see solutions to these challenges. Alongside small-scale miners, we engage with industrial mines, brands, and gold buyers through our strategic approach of working across the supply chain from miner to retail. The biggest market need is to increase the supply of good gold to meet an ever increasing demand for responsibly sourced, non-conflict minerals.
Breaking the poverty cycle while respecting the planet for future generations is not easy. Within the gold supply chain, many buyers, such as brands and jewellers, are not aware of the conditions in which their gold is produced. We work to increase transparency about supply chains.
Helping buyers within the industry understand whether they are sourcing responsible gold, we increase their awareness of their situation and available options for them to support certified gold production. Thus far we have put more than 10 mining communities directly in touch with buyers.
Given the potential for producing responsible gold, there’s clearly a lot more that needs to be done as the full development potential of gold has not yet been reached. Our approach is practical and it builds on existing market-based drivers to accelerate the transition to better practices.
Solidaridad launches new approaches for sustainability in 2016
During a turbulent year with many changes in the geopolitical sphere, Solidaridad and its partners united to improve the livelihoods of close to 700,000 producers working on around one million hectare
Solidaridad partners with World Bank to promote resilient landscapes in Ghana
The World Bank has approved funding of $5.5 million under the Ghana Dedicated Grant Mechanism (G-DGM) for local communities.
Ghana commission signs MoU with Solidaridad to promote responsible mining
The Minerals Commission of Ghana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Solidaridad to promote responsible mining practices in small-scale gold mines.
Blog: Ethical branding - overpromise and underdeliver?
In this month's blog, Solidaridad Executive Director Nico Roozen takes a look at the history and pitfalls of sustainability labels which he has been directly involved in over the past 30 years.
Agribusiness takes the lead at African Landscapes Dialogue
Solidaridad hosted a discussion session on the role of agribusiness in landscapes during the African Landscape Dialogue (6-10 March 2017) in Addis Ababa.
Blog: Sustainable development demands gender inclusivity
Solidaridad has established a gender task force to ensure that inclusivity remains an effective component of its global sustainability programmes.