As a Mine to Market business we make regular trips to our partner mines to maintain our personal relationship with their communities and make sure we know the situation on the ground. This gives us the opportunity to discuss shipment details and provide support as needed. Most of our Fairtrade Gold is sourced from Peru.
We have a great team in Peru who accompany me on all my regular trips to the mines. Dajhanna is from a mining family, she speaks fluent English and is our trouble shooter. Jose is our Peruvian photographer, who shares our passion for telling the miners story. Owen is our export agent at Lima airport, he takes care of all the gold shipments and travels with us to the mines. Without them, none of what we do would be possible.
In early April, we visited the Puno district in the south of Peru for the ﬁrst time. The Puno district mines have been Fairtrade accredited since 2017. The mines here are very much on the top of the Andes where the air is very thin. The miners usually work as Alpaca farmers but supplement their income with gold mining.
The surface sands which came from a nearby volcano contain about 1gm of gold per ton of sand. This is extracted using the old-fashioned sluice method with water, no mercury, cyanide or other chemicals are used. This is a cold harsh environment, with snow covered mountains just a couple of miles away.
When the miners have extracted the mineral ore from one site, they recycle the waste stone and sand, using it to reﬁll the hole left by the mineshaft. The top soil is then replaced and farming can resume.
We left Puno and went to the Arequipa district, which is nearer the Paciﬁc Ocean, just north of the Atacama Desert. We spent a day there at the Macdesa mine, our long-standing supplier, with whom we have a close relationship. When we started working with Macdesa, gold was mined using hand tools and laboriously transported up and down the mountain by donkey. With the introduction of more advanced equipment, productivity has increased, and the miners have moved away from a hand to mouth existence.
Their development, since my last visit over six months ago has been dramatic. They have built a new kitchen to feed the workers at the mine and now make 150 meals, 3 times a day. The miners have nearly ﬁnished building a tunnel under the mountain to take out the mineral ore more efﬁciently and their standards of health and safety and site security improve with every visit.
Our final visit was to Sotrami, one of the original Fairtrade Gold suppliers. They are producing about 30Kgs of gold per month for Cred. Sotrami also continues to develop quickly. They will have a long tunnel under the mountain to extract gold ore in the next 12 months. The community have vastly improved the secondary school and are putting in a new water facility. Water lorries currently supply the area but pumping stations will become active in the next couple of months brining water up almost 8000ft to a reservoir above the village.
On the last day of the trip we visited the Lima ofﬁce of Macdesa to say hello to the admin staff. We then went to the airport to carry out a review of security for Fairtrade Gold shipments. Lima has a modern cargo handling airport with the latest security management procedures and 400 security cameras. We saw a shipment of 181Kgs of gold, worth about $7,500,000 being processed. It was a reminder that, as the sixth largest gold producing country in the world, there are many more small-scale gold miners whose lives could be improved through Fairtrade.
Oro Puno Mine; District; Puno
Mine ;4600m above sea level
Co-op Members; 15
Production; 3-4Kgs every two months.
Method of Production; Surface ore using sluices to generate about 1gm gold per ton of mineral.
No chemicals used at all.
Limata Mine; District; Puno
Mine; 4600m above sea level
Co-op members; 36
Production; 8Kgs every two months.
Method of Production; Surface ore using sluices to generate about 1gm gold per ton of mineral. No chemicals used at all.
Macdesa Mine; District; Arequipa
Mine; 1975m above sea level
Co-op members; 135
Production; 25-30Kgs per month. Rising to 50-60 upon completion of tunnel in August 2019. Hard rock mining generating 5-8gms per ton of mineral.
Sotrami Mine; District; Arequipa
Mine; 2450m above sea level.
Co-op members; 186
Production; 70Kgs per month. Rising to 150Kgs upon completion of tunnel in May 2020. Hard rock mining generating 5-8gms per ton of mineral.