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Fairtrade gold from Uganda arrives in the UK for first time

29 September 2017


Splashed: a miner removes floodwater from a conventional (non-Fairtrade) mine near Tororo, in Uganda, using a panning basin

Splashed: a miner removes floodwater from a conventional (non-Fairtrade) mine near Tororo, in Uganda, using a panning basin

FAIRTRADE gold has been imported from Africa to the UK for the first time, the Fairtrade Foundation has announced.

Artisan pieces of jewellery made from gold mined in Uganda were unveiled at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, in London, on Thursday of last week. The event celebrated the latest pro­ject of the Fairtrade Foundation, “Fairtrade Gold: Future Innovations”, which is supporting small mining-sites in East Africa, giving miners access to international markets and finance, and making the supply of gold “more transparent” with trading initiatives.

The Foundation estimates that 16 million small-scale miners around the world work in dangerous conditions to provide gold that is sold on the high streets. “Exploited by middle men, and forced to handle hazardous chemicals such as mercury, small-scale mining is a harsh and pre-carious way to earn a livelihood that often leaves miners living in pov-erty,” it says.

“Unlicensed artisanal gold miners produce as much as 2.8 metric tonnes of gold per year: enough to pro­­duce 82 million mobile phones. Yet, almost all artisanal gold is min­ed and exported illegally. Unreg­ulated gold mining has led to con­flicts in the mining sector, competi­tion for land use, smuggling of gold, child labour, human-rights abuses, environmental and human-health concerns, and tax-revenue losses.”

The first formal “trade” of Fair-trade African gold is due to take place next month, with Cred Jewellers, supported by another firm of ethical jew­el­­lers Greg Valerio, and the charity Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD).

The Foundation is planning to extend the programme to other min­ing sites in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, and to increase the volume of Fairtrade gold available to be ex­­ported on Fairtrade terms. It is also investing in cleaner, more efficient equipment for processing gold.

The gold will be traded to tech companies from next year with sup­port from UNICEF and the Dutch government through its ecumenical development agency, Solidaridad, and the Dutch development organ­isa­tion HIVOS.

Speaking at the event, the chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, Michael Gidney, said: “The partnership will support artisanal small­-scale gold mines in Busia, Ug­­anda, to responsibly mine gold and eventually sell their gold into the supply changes of these technology businesses, establishing a blueprint for others in the technology sector to learn from. . . This is all about the people of the land benefiting from their resources. . . Through our work with African mine sites, Fairtrade directly addresses the endemic social and environmental challenges present in artisanal mining, to bring about direct benefits for artisanal small-scale mining communities in a way that no other system has done.”

A photography exhibition on min­ing communities in Uganda, “Mine to Maker” by Ian Berry, is on display at the Goldsmiths’ Centre until 27 Oct­o­ber.


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