What is Fairmined?
Fairmined is a label that certifies precious metals mined by responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations. The Fairmined initiative was developed by The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) with the intention of improving the mining industry's transparency efforts. The Fairmined Standard focuses on empowering mining communities to commit to improving environmental protection and social development efforts. With the Fairmined certification, a mining operation is guaranteed a fair price for minerals, direct access to international markets, and a support system of fellow miners and organizations.
Who is the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM)?
ARM is an international group of community-based mining organizations, environmentalists, business representatives, and certification specialists whose mission is to support small-scale miners by creating sustainable operation strategies as well as facilitating the development of a responsible supply chain. ARM developed the Fairmined Standard to be a step by step guide for mining operations to follow on their path toward sustainability.
The path to becoming Fairmined certified is not necessarily easy for informal mining operations. The demands are rigorous and the process is lengthy. Thus in addition to the Fairmined certification, ARM created CRAFT - a transitional program aimed to address issues such as "due diligence, mercury management, associativity, health and safety at work, child labor, as well as the commercialization of its minerals."
"We have developed the Fairmined Standard, which aims to create opportunities for artisanal and small-scale gold miners, facilitate progressive organization, improve working conditions, promote responsible environmental management and contribute to the well-being of mining families and communities. Through access to fair markets, the Fairmined Standard establishes a fair price and also awards a premium to the mining organization, to be used for its continuous improvement and to be shared with the local community."
How does Fairmined support the environment?
The Fairmined Standard works to minimize the use of mercury and cyanide during the extraction of gold. Mercury is very effective in isolating. It binds to the gold, separates it from the other material, and is then vaporized leaving behind only gold. Mercury is a naturally occurring element, however, when present in high levels of concentration is toxic. High levels are present in our water, soil, air and are contaminating food sources in our rivers and oceans. Mercury toxicity most notably affects ones respiratory and nervous systems. Miners often handle it with their bare hands and breathe in the vapors when burning. It is estimated around 8,000 pounds of mercury is dumped into our biosphere every day by artisanal mines.
On a global level, the UN Environment Global Mercury Partnership has put forth the Minamata Convention on Mercury which places a ban on new mercury mines, implements the phase-out of existing mines, places regulations on air emissions and releases in land and water, as well as regulates of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
ARM and the Fairmined Standard aim to work with organizations affiliated with the convention and educate the miners about the environmental and health risks associated with overexposure to mercury. Fairmined also offers Eco Gold which has been gathered using zero chemicals. Only gravimetric methods are allowed to be used. Gravimetric methods are used in gold panning, sluices and shaking tables and rely solely on the weight of the material to separate it from the mineral.
How does Fairmined support social development?
A large part of the Fairmined Standard is a robust section dedicated to labor and inclusivity requirements. The use of child labor is prohibited, labor contracts are required, social security payments are made, and working conditions are improved by safety equipment and health requirements. The miners have the right to organize and are able to create better trade relationships with direct access to the international market.
ARM works directly with communities to fully understand their needs and understand better how their support would be beneficial. Their projects include bridging the gap between communities and supply chains to gender inclusivity within the industry. Check out their current projects as well as their past projects to learn more.
What is the difference between Fairmined and recycled metal?
Fairmined metal is traceable from mine to jeweler. In order for a mine to receive the Fairmined certification, there are rigorous environmental and social standards by which they must abide. The mines are routinely audited to ensure adherence to the standard. In order to use the Fairmined label jewelers also have to adhere to strict standards and provide audits of materials used and process.
Recycled metal is metal that has previously been mined and in circulation from industrial use and old accessories. There is no way to trace the source of the metals.
Why do I prefer to use Fairmined metal in my work?
I am dedicated to making a product that can be a conversational piece both because of its aesthetic and because of its ethos. Life inundates us with choices each day and in my heart of hearts, I believe people want to make conscious ones. I want to create pieces that make you feel proud/unique/awake when you wear them and are the epitome of voting with your dollar.
Fairmined metal to me represents compassion, innovation, conservation, and creation. I purchase it to use in my work because I am doing my best to vote with my dollar.