Christina T Miller living room sessions

Living Room Session: ASM Gold

artisanal mining consumer awareness development gold mining living room sessions social issues Apr 01, 2021

Following last month’s session on recycled gold, March’s Living Room continued the conversation on Artisanal and Small Scale (ASM) gold.

This session highlighted the work of the Alliance for Responsible Mining and the impacts of the Fairmined gold premium. We also shared learnings from the first-ever consumer study on ASM gold by MVEye Marketing, commissioned by Christina T. Miller Sustainable Jewelry Consulting. This Living Room also includes updates from Ana Maria Sierra on her work with artisanal gold in Chocó, Colombia and an introduction to Amazon Aid Foundation’s Cleaner Gold Network. You are always welcome to give us feedback or suggest topics you’d like to see covered in Living Room sessions with this form.

In the previous session , we dove into the topic of recycled gold and worked to unpack the benefits and challenges of recycling. In seeking to understand where the jewelry industry can have its greatest impact, the session returned our attention to Artisanal and Small Scale (ASM) gold. One challenge that jewelers frequently face in sourcing artisanal gold is the cost. Many factors make up the cost (LBMA price, cost to mine, process, transport, insurance, taxes, etc.).

In the case of Fairmined Certified Gold there is also a premium paid to the mining organization, which is intended to support positive improvement at the gold mining sites and within impacted communities. To better understand the role of the premium and why it is part of the Fairmined Standard we invited the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) to share how they work to improve mining conditions and the impacts of the premium.. Fairmined is an ASM mining standard and certification label established by ARM, which is audited and certified by an independent third-party.

Jonathan Gonzalez, Market Development Specialist for the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), outlined the key ideas behind the organization’s work: Responsibility, Sustainability, and Ethics.

Within ARM’s Responsibility focus, the organization promotes accountability throughout the supply chain, from the mining organizations to the end user. Key aspects of the Sustainability focus include taking all actions possible to meet our present needs without compromising the needs of future generations and emphasizing the value of protecting the environment as fundamental for future generations and economic development. ARM’s Ethics focus emphasizes social impact and development. It promotes the ideas of responsible conduct from business decisions to personal decisions and how our day to day activities build towards greater goals.

What does the Fairmined premium do?

The Fairmined premium is paid to certified mining organizations and contributes to strengthening mining organizations, workers’ welfare, and community development. ARM’s sustainable development approach relies on consistent financial support for continual improvement of practices over time. With the Fairmined premium, mining communities invest in business-related needs, such as proper protective equipment, transportation equipment, meeting rooms, mechanisms for proper disposal of chemicals, and more. Supporting mining organizations’ abilities to invest in better practices is key to making responsibly mined gold a practical reality. The mining organizations must invest in these improvements to meet and maintain their certification with ARM.

In addition to working with mining organizations to improve practices, ARM also supports the communities impacted by artisanal gold mining. These efforts are guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For example, SDG #8 is about Decent Working and Economic Growth. To support this goal, ARM has helped a mining organization in Puno, Peru establish a meeting space to benefit its members, partners, and workers with new facilities to carry out their work, improve working conditions, and support productive employment. In support of SDG #5 which addresses Gender Equality, funds were used to hire a tailoring teacher to offer tailoring classes for women mineral selectors*, with the goal of providing better job opportunities as they carry out entrepreneurial projects such as making and selling mining uniforms and other products. To learn more about how ARM is supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, you can check out the organization’s 2019 Annual Report here.

ARM is careful to support the mining organizations in a way that respects their history, experience, and knowledge about what is best for their communities. This is why ARM supports mining organizations' rights to determine how finances from the premiums are used. While the exact process can vary based on location, politics, and other factors - ensuring clear representation from all stakeholders within a mining community is universal and fundamental to the Fairmined standard.

To determine how the premium will be used, a Fairmined community that includes representation from miners, transporters, vulnerable groups, indigenous communities, and others affected by the practices works together to identify priorities for the mines and local communities. This group then determines a plan of action and how the investment will be distributed, and presents it to the community. The key aspect of ARM’s approach to mining organization’s determining how a premium investment is used is stakeholder participation.

What do consumers think of responsible artisanal gold?

As support for responsibly mined artisanal gold grows within the jewelry industry, it is now our job to educate consumers and spread awareness about the value of these programs and materials.

In November 2020, Christina T. Miller Sustainable Jewelry Consulting commissioned MVEye Marketing to conduct the first ever consumer study on artisanal and small scale gold. This study was sponsored by the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Rio Grande.

One of the key findings of the study was that as consumers are more educated about the benefits of supporting responsible artisanal gold, they become more interested in purchasing jewelry made with the material and are also more willing to pay a premium for this kind of gold. This evidence reiterates the importance of developing consumers’ awareness and understanding of artisanal gold.

How can we talk to clients about responsible artisanal gold?

Awareness-raising efforts are also supported by jewelers sharing successful strategies for communicating with their clients on these issues. Jeweler Saskia Shutt shared her approach during this month’s Living Room session.

First, she gathers educational information from the ARM website:

“The [ARM] website is incredibly useful, the newsletters are so informative, you have access to everything.”

She includes information from ARM within her shop and on her website, so that customers may have an opportunity to learn before hitting the point of sale. Next, she adds information about the gold options available to her customers to her quotes and invoices, so that the customer can understand why there is an additional cost for Fairmined and they can make the choice that best suits them. Saskia notes that most of her customers end up choosing Fairmined gold once they understand its benefits. She even includes the name of the country and mine that the gold came from when delivering a piece of jewelry, which she says often makes her customers feel more connected to the piece.

Aware of the cost concerns of fellow jewelers, Saskia encourages those new to certified artisanal gold to start small. She suggests simply becoming a licensee so that the option to offer Fairmined metals is available to you - you can even start by buying Fairmined silver or small quantities of Fairmined gold, just keep in mind if you do this without becoming a licensee, you can’t make public claims that you are using Fairmined gold.

Connecting the piece of gold jewelry to the origin of the gold is something that Ana Maria Sierra of Moda Elan has long advocated for. To close out our Living Room session, Ana shared her work with jewelry celebrating the rich history and culture of gold mining and jewelry making in Chocó, Colombia. Ana’s initiative is called Joyeria Para el Cambio (Jewelry for Change) and it is a call to action focused on spanish-speaking countries. The initiative is done in alliance with the UN Global Compact in Colombia to work together with companies to support information sharing.

This initiative works to share information, educate, and propel change related to responsible artisanal gold mining while emphasizing innovation and sustainability for wellbeing. It aims to include a variety of stakeholders and is open to all to join. The initiative’s launch meeting is May 6th, you can find out more here. The program will be in Spanish.

Lastly, Ana shared a new documentary about gold mining in Chocó, Colombia based on the research of Juana Mendez - Talking Hands. The film, by Camilo Gomez, is a documentary that aims to create awareness about the gold panners in Chocó and how illicit mining is erasing the unique cultural heritage they have. The film is in post-production and is expected to be released at the end of the year. All are invited to support the film’s production and/or view the trailer.

We are thrilled to see all of these initiatives to improve the opportunities associated with responsible artisanal gold and recognize the importance of communicating and coordinating between efforts. This is why Christina T. Miller Sustainable Jewelry Consulting has helped to develop and launch Amazon Aid Foundation’s Cleaner Gold Network.

This network is meant to bring together all of the types of stakeholders involved in the production, trade, and use of gold so that we may work together to harmonize and empower our work towards the collective goal of transparent, responsible, sustainable artisanal gold supply chains. Watch the recording of the launch of the Cleaner Gold Network and sign up for the Cleaner Gold Pledge. We want you to help make responsible artisanal gold the norm - if you are interested in working on the campaign’s focus areas with us, sign up here.

As we continue to cultivate conversations and community around responsible sourcing and sustainability, this session reiterated the importance of engagement. Although building a better jewelry industry is complex work, it is important that we continue to engage with these challenges in order to improve. Every purchase is an opportunity to do better and investing in initiatives seeking to support responsible mining, such as ARM, helps shift the needle in a positive direction.

Every small step helps, so whether you are able to purchase responsibly mined artisanal gold, or talk with your customers or peers about the value of supporting responsibly mined materials, you are helping to create change.

* ”Mineral selectors” - This is a task often carried out by women. The mining process sometimes misses ore (economically viable gold bearing rock), and the women sort the waste rock piles identifying stray ore that can be further processed. Sometimes the mineral selectors are organized as cooperatives independent of the mining organization.

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