Living Room Session: Behind the Scenes Fairmined Trip to PeruJul 27, 2022
Through presentations from Morgane Nzelemona from the Alliance for Responsible Mining and three jeweler guest speakers, we got a great behind the scenes look into the recent Fairmined trip to mine sites in Peru at the July Living Room session. Jewelers Daniella Samper, Saskia Shutt, and Francesco Belloni shared with us their unique perspectives informed by their diverse business models and modes of production. With the three of them sharing their experiences, we’re certain most jewelers will find something in this Living Room Session that they truly relate with.
The Alliance for Responsible Mining created the label and assurance system called Fairmined in 2010. Fairmined allows us to access traceable gold from mining organizations that care about protecting the environment and the local community. Morgane’s presentation focused on ARM’s work in Peru, which is the second largest gold producer in South America, with 87T of gold produced last year. Mining is certainly a key sector in the economy of Peru. The Amazon rainforest region, Madre de Dios, has been greatly impacted by illegal mining, deforestation, and mercury contamination. On the other side of the country, the notorious La Rinconada, located on the high altitude border between Peru and Bolivia, is another region similarly affected. This is near the Fairmined mines in the Puno department.
From Madre de Dios to La Rinconada, responsible gold mining practices are not the norm and the impacts from a lack of formalization are exacerbated by remote locations and limited law enforcement, leading to big challenges. Here only 3% of the mining sector is formalized. Women’s rights within mining organizations is another issue that the Alliance for Responsible Mining is focusing on in this area.
There are four Fairmined certified mines in Peru: MACDESA, Oro Puno, CECOMIP, and Cruz Pata. ARM is currently working with five other mines in the country in supporting them on their path to Fairmined certification; four of them are in the Madre de Dios region. Hopefully, the four mines in Madre de Dios will be ecologically certified by the end of the year.
Fairmined Certification vs. Fairmined Ecological Certification
All Fairmined mines are audited yearly.
- Progressive compliance with environmental standards - all the mines are committed to achieving a gradual reduction of toxic chemical (especially mercury and cyanide), and to adopting measures that guarantee the safe and responsible use of these products when they are still in use
- Worker safety is ensured
- Water management in closed loops systems is integrated into practices whenever possible
- Mine closure remediation plan in place
- Mining organizations are given several years to completely meet the standard, but start out by complying with the local laws as well as some initial steps from Fairmined
- Key requirement is that no mercury and no cyanide can be used during the extraction process
- From the start, Fairmined Eco mines must already comply with all of the environmental requirements of the Fairmined standard
Eco certification is very challenging to achieve because it means that neither mercury nor cyanide are used. That said, 6 out of the 7 total Fairmined mines are currently mercury free!
The largest source of mercury pollution globally is ASGM (artisanal and small-scale gold mining), with large-scale gold mining in third place due to ore roasting practices . Mercury gravely affects the health of miners and ecosystems and spreads through waterways to many other areas from the mine sites. It is used because it is the easiest, fastest, and cheapest method of extracting gold particles from the ore. In the early stages of working with miners, ARM focuses on raising awareness of the dangers of mercury and teaching miners how to work with the chemical in a safe way, all while the mining organization works to invest in equipment which will allow them to work without mercury. Depending on the size of the operation, it can cost between $100,000 and $2 million or more to convert a plant to mercury free processing techniques. Part of the reason for the progressive approach ARM takes is that it can take mines a long time to raise the funds to invest, but it also takes time to change the habits and mindsets of the miners, who are most accustomed to mercury amalgamation as the main technique for extracting gold. Time is also required to study the soil and to learn what the best mercury free technologies are for specific sites.
Cyanide is most commonly used by large-scale gold mines as well as artisanal and small-scale gold mines when the gold is in hard-rock. The unique geology of regionally specific ore bodies requires a solution that can dissolve the gold, freeing it from the rock. In hard rock mines, like the Fairmined mines in Colombia, it would be very complicated not to use cyanide for this purpose. In these situations, ARM focuses on training miners to handle cyanide responsibly. This is done by creating controlled environments - plants that work with closed water circuits and water treatment. Miners are of course also provided with PPE to ensure their safety.
Fairmined Ecological mines have achieved the great feat of tackling the challenges of mercury and cyanide use. Additionally, they take further measures to rehabilitate their natural ecosystem. Because of the significantly greater investment of time and money, they also receive a higher premium for the gold than the Fairmined certified mines. New suppliers of Fairmined certified gold continue to be added to the available offerings and we’re all a part of that growth!
After Morgane’s informative presentation, each of the three jewelers shared some photos and impressions from their individual experiences during the trip. There’s nothing better than hearing them tell their own stories to go along with their photos; you can see them in the video on our LR Video Archive Page.
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date with our community.
You'll receive timely notifications about our next Living Room Sessions and registration links.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.