July 21 2015

Fairtrade Gold from Africa is coming...

The launch of the first Fairtrade gold from Africa is only two months away - we hope to land the first shipment in September. So last week, everyone who was involved met in Migori County in south west Kenya to discuss the way forward.

For the past 2 years, nine mines have taken part in a pilot project to develop their working towards Fairtrade standards. The miners in the first wave of accredited organisations came from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. They are trailblazers, committed to improving the lives of their communities. Also at the meeting were representatives from Fairtrade foundation England, Flo-Cert Germany and Fairtrade Africa. In all there were about 45 people involved with getting this historic project to where it is today.

The conference was on the Monday and Tuesday but before that we went round the mines with James Ashton from The Independent who was out with us looking to see what effect the work we were doing was having on the communities involved. We went to the soon-to-be-accredited-Fairtrade mines, and then to compare them with some informal mines close by.

The most harrowing visit was to a miner that was injured in a mine that collapsed. He was paralysed from the chest down due to a broken back. He had 5 children and a wife. She now goes to work in the fields for less than a dollar a day , just enough to pay for a can of maize to give their family one meal a day. There situation was as hopeless as I had seen in my last ten years of travelling to Africa.

Fairtrade gold ensures that there is proper health and safety, elimination of child labour and facilitaing access to international markets at fair prices.

Over the last 2 years we have spent some time developing systems that would eradicate the use of Mercury, which is the chemical currently used to amalgamate the gold when they pan the results of sluicing. The new equipment uses centrifugal force to separate the heavier gold from the sand without the use of Mercury . At the same time it does a better job by at least 50%. This means that the miners will produce 50% more gold from there tailings ( gold rich ore ) and will get double the money they are now getting when they take it to market.

These mines currently receive 70% of the LBMA gold price as set in London. When we buy from them they will receive 95% plus $2,000 a kilo social premium. In actual terms, if they use the new equipment they will get $6,000 for a hundred grams compared to $3,000 that they are getting now. On top of this, the gold produced will be Mercury-free produced.

Small scale artisanal miners around the world have been ignored by repeated governments as an inconvenience. Now they are getting organised they are being transformed from Informal to Formal, Illegal to Legal. The African miners are taking great store from the example of Sotrami in Peru, who are becoming a national treasure in Peru for leading the way of how to go from informal and disorganised to a formalised, organised business. They have all worked extremely hard and we are incredibly proud of them.

Next time: The trailblazing miners at the Fairtrade Gold Conference