Gold and precious metals

Gold is one of the most precious materials, revered as a symbol of wealth and beauty, refined into cherished jewelry and ornaments. These days, you may carry gold in a different form: it’s a component of many portable electronics, from phones to laptops.

Gold Peru Eduardomartino 870
Fairtrade gold miners
Image © Eduardo Martino

Gold is a multi-billion dollar business, but this precious metal often yields little for the people performing the risky task of extracting it from the earth. Fairtrade got involved in gold (and other precious metals mined alongside gold) in 2011 to bolster the efforts of small-scale mining cooperatives that were already working to improve their situation.

Choosing Fairtrade gold makes a difference

About 90 percent of the global demand is for high-value gold, such as bullion for value storage or expensive jewellery; the remaining 10 percent is used in electronics. Mining provides about two-thirds of the supply, with recycling covering the remainder.

The artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) groups that Fairtrade works with are quite distinct from the multinational companies that are typically granted government mining concessions. ASMs often take up mining because no other work is available to them, and in many cases they lack formal extraction rights in the areas where they work. This in turn leaves ASMs vulnerable to exploitative practices by commercial partners, or worse – as a conflict mineral, gold also attracts organized crime and armed groups that can further threaten and extort miners.

Fairtrade certification aims at banning all forms of conflict minerals from the gold supply chain, so that the gold trade does not fuel instability and conflict in mining areas. At the same time, Fairtrade supports ASM cooperatives to acquire legal status for their operations and enables miners to act collectively against any form of discrimination.

Occupational safety is another concern: small-scale mining tends to involve work in dark, narrow tunnels with poor ventilation. The use of dynamite to crack gold-containing rocks, as well as toxic chemicals like mercury and cyanide to refine gold, further exacerbate the dangerous working conditions. Fairtrade works with ASMs to reduce the amount of chemicals needed in gold extraction, to raise awareness for health and safety risks, and to ensure that proper safety equipment and policies are in place.

Beyond supporting ASMs in addressing these challenges, Fairtrade focuses on improving the livelihoods of small-scale gold producers.

  • Fairtrade miners benefit from a Fairtrade Minimum Price for the gold they mine. The price ASMs receive works out to around 95 percent of the price set by the benchmark London Bullion Market (LBMA, revised twice daily).

  • Fairtrade miners also benefit from the Fairtrade Premium of US$2000 per kilogram of gold they sell, which they receive on top of the agreed sales price. In their cooperatives, miners decide together how the Premium should be invested to the benefit of them and their families. Some have invested in safer and more productive extraction methods, in environmental protection efforts, or in community development measures like education, child care and healthcare.

  • By supporting their cause through consultation and knowledge transfers, and by increasing the awareness of their ethically sourced gold among traders and consumers, Fairtrade has strengthened the efforts of mining cooperatives to secure a better deal in the highly lucrative gold business.

Although we don’t buy it so often, many of us use gold on a daily basis – as a decoration or a symbol of our relationships, or as part of the gadgets we rely on. Ask for Fairtrade gold, and support small-scale miners to get their fair share.

Looking for Fairtrade Products?

Fairtrade products are widely available. The blue countries and territories on the map below have Fairtrade organizations that promote Fairtrade products. Their websites often include a product finder to show you the full variety of Fairtrade products near you. Even if there isn't a Fairtrade organization where you live, Fairtrade products may still be available – look for our familiar marks on products!