There’s such a wide variety of products you can buy that are Fairtrade Certified – coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas – most of these are already available, but did you know that you can also buy Fairtrade Certified Silver? There is currently only one silver mine in Peru where miners are paid a fair price for the demanding and dangerous work they do every day, helping to support them and their families.
Last week was Fashion Revolution Week, a week dedicated to making us think about where our clothes come from, to encourage us to buy in to sustainable fashion – but have you ever thought about your jewellery? There are people in developing countries working in horrendous conditions and facing battles every day for our benefit, so that we can wear beautiful necklaces and rings. It’s time for us to ask where our jewellery comes from, and to demand more sustainable and Fairtrade sources.
Silver and gold are the most common metals used in jewellery production – I for one have plenty of gold and silver necklaces, rings and earrings – and you can find them in every jewellery shop. However, the jewellery industry is built on human rights abuses, corruption, and little care for environmental impact.
In many areas gold mining also contributes to civil war and violence; for example in the Democratic Republic of Congo gold mining has been fueling a civil war since 1998, with more than 5 million people losing their lives. While the war is essentially an ethnic conflict, it is also a fight to control the gold supply with rebels taking over gold mining communities and forcing local miners to give up a portion of their earnings. Violence is often used to keep control over mining regions and there are reports of children as young as 5 years old being forced to work in dangerous gold mines without even being paid.
In these mining areas health and safety rules are virtually non-existent, making mine extremely dangerous places to work, not only are there tunnel collapses, underground fires and falling rocks, the miners must also work with dangerous chemicals that can cause spills and pollution. Gold mining is responsible for 30-40% of man-made mercury pollution each year, and since it uses cyanide during the gold extraction processes, there are risks of cyanide spills such as that in Romania when more than 100,000 gallons of cyanide-laced waste water spilled into nearby rivers.
This pollution has serious effects on the environment, killing local wildlife and poisoning water supplies. Gold mining is also responsible for the acceleration of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest along with releasing mercury into the Amazon’s air and water, again poisoning wildlife.
There are companies refusing to take part in such awful practices and are trying to make a difference in the jewellery industry. Brands like Mosami use primarily recycled silver to make their gorgeous pieces, along with Fairmined Silver and Gold. The Fairtrade Foundation works with artisan and small scale mining organisations in Latin America and East Africa in order to help them meet Fairtrade standards so they can supply international markets with certified gold.
Mosami sources its Fairtrade silver from the Sotrami Mining Organisation in Peru. The Fairtrade standards ensure that the miners are paid a fair price for the work that they do, and that their working conditions, although obviously dangerous because of the nature of the work, are acceptable with health & safety regulations. The miners also receive a Fairtrade premium which is invested into the local community which allows children to receive a better education, more food for their family and the ability to build a stable business.
As there is short supply of Fairtrade silver and gold, Mosami want to extend Fairtrade to many other mines. They also use recycled silver which is handmade by ethical producers in India and Africa, making this jewellery truly kind to people and planet.