Antioquia, Colombia Taking New Steps toward ‘Responsible’ Gold Mining
The just-issued annual report by the metro-Medellin-based Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) finds that Antioquia and other parts of Latin America are starting to make progress in their quest to overcome enormous problems confronting the gold-mining industry.
ARM, which created the “Fairmined” certification standard, reports that during 2014, “certified miners sold 500% more Fairmined Gold than the year before and received almost US$500,000 in ‘Fairmined Premium’ [payments] combined,” according to the group.
The report shows how miners are now meeting updated certification standards; how Fairmined Gold is now being employed in new creations including the Palme D’ór [film industry] award and commemorative coins; how ARM is influencing global negotiations and dialogues on responsible mining; and how “new projects and partners brought ARM to support even more miners around the globe,” according to the “green” non-governmental organization (NGO).
“We are actively diversifying local partners so as to provide specialized high-quality service to the miners who are committed to social and environmental responsibility,” according to ARM executive director Lina Villa-Cordoba.
“This approach enabled our capacity-building center to continue to develop its portfolio and to begin validation of its learning methodologies through the training of 25 ‘Fairmined Trainers.’
“In partnership with Resolve, we activated the CAPAZ program in Colombia, which seeks to establish traceable supply chains that contribute to peace and the adoption of industry-best practices.
“At the Alliance for Responsible Mining, we work to transform artisanal and small-scale mining into a socially and environmentally responsible activity that improves the quality of life of artisanal miners, their families and communities.
“Through the Fairmined Standard and our support, miners are able to produce Fairmined certified metals and gain access to responsible supply chains.
“Transforming artisanal and small-scale mining is a complex challenges that requires holistic solutions. Our work is not about charity, but about empowering these entrepreneurs in reaching their goal of becoming a responsible, sustainable and included part of the industry.
“We also work for the recognition and understanding of ASM and its main challenges promoting inclusive legal frameworks on the national and global level.
“The Fairmined Standard and Certification System is in the center of our efforts, to which everything else is related and supported. It is a rigorous, third party certification system that ensures that ASM miners formalize while meeting world-leading standards for responsible practices.
“The Fairmined Standard includes a set of requirements to guarantee legality of operations, environmental protection, fair labor conditions and social development, and to assure the gold is traceable and conflict-free.”
To date, ARM projects have resulted in 1,700 direct beneficiaries — including miners who work for organizations that seek Fairmined certification — as well as 6,800 indirect beneficiaries, according to the group.
What’s more, during 2014 “20 new [jewelry] brands of different sizes joined the Fairmined Initiative. These jewelers are the ones that tell their costumers on a daily basis why Fairmined is the best choice not only for them, but also for the miners,” according to ARM.
On a related front, “we signed a formal agreement with Ethical Metalsmiths (EM) in September 2014 to raise awareness on the positive impact of Fairmined gold and connect ethical jewelers with Fairmined certified mining organizations in the US.
“ARM and EM will focus on bringing more players into the Fairmined System and on working closely with jewelers to create broader awareness around responsible sourcing and Fairmined Certification. We will also actively increase jewelers’ access to Fairmined Gold and build relationships between miners and jewelers to increase market access and generate positive, measurable benefits to artisanal and small-scale mining communities.
“Closing 2014, Fairmined counts 53 licensees and five operators working with gold to be proud of,” including FairSources (Canada), Hoover and Strong (USA), Majoral (Spain), Metalor (Switzerland) and S&P Trading (France), according to ARM.
“The year 2014 was yet another year in which we were able to expand our work in Latin America and incorporate new organizations into the Fairmined System.
“This was especially true in Colombia, where our presence on the ground was strengthened through our local team of professionals working with miners and local institutions in various departments and municipalities. This was possible thanks to our collaboration with the IDB-MIF, Chopard and ‘Somos Tesoro,’ a new project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor with the aim of reducing child labor in Colombia.
“The project will benefit children, workers and their families in mining areas in the regions of Boyacá and Antioquia,” according to ARM.
Private-sector collaborators with ARM include the Central Bank of Luxembourg, Chopard, Hogan and Lovells, and Microsoft.
Other ONGs and institutions collaborating with ARM include Ethical Metalsmiths; Fondo Acción; Fundación Ayuda; Fundación AVINA; Fundación Mi Sangre; International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED); Inter-American Development Bank (IDB-MIF); the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (ONUDI); the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); and the Responsible Jewelry Council, according to ARM.
Violence Subsides in Antioquia
On a related front, some 1,600 workers that had stopped working at mines owned by Gran Colombia Gold have returned to work thanks to additional security measures taken by the Colombian government (see: “Good News, Bad News on Mining in Colombia, Antioquia This Month,” Medellin Herald, October 7, 2015).
The miners – working under a contract with Damasa — had stopped working because of murders and extortions by the narco-terrorist “Clan Usuga” gang, according to a report from El Colombiano.