Gold will never lose its allure. It’s useful, beautiful, rare, and an essential material for many different products. However, many parts of the gold sector remain tainted by environmental destruction, conflict and human rights abuses. Currently, only a limited amount of small scale gold mines can meet standards as high as Fairtrade. That’s why in 2017, Fairphone, Philips, Solidaridad, Fairtrade, UNICEF and Hivos/Stop Child Labour entered into a five-year partnership to support a more responsible approach to gold sourcing. One-and-a-half years into this partnership, we’re making progress towards our goals, while learning valuable lessons from the challenges we’re encountering.
Finding the right partners on the ground
Globally, artisanal and small scale mines (ASMs) are responsible for 12% – 15% of the world’s gold supply. Their informal status leaves 1.5 million child laborers vulnerable to exploitation, collapsing mines and toxic chemicals. In Uganda in particular, 26% of children are identified as laborers, with 15,000+ estimated to be working in ASMs.
At the same time, income from ASM mining is key to many livelihoods and several ASM mines have demonstrated that they can meet high-performance standards and contribute to local development.
Local miners at work in an ASM near the town of Tiira.
We are partnering with three carefully selected ASM associations in Busia, Uganda: Tiira Small-scale Miners’ Association, Tiira Landlord Miners’ Association, and Busia United. By helping these three associations to access investment, equipment and training, they can become a template within their wider industry. Step by step they will demonstrate that yes, you can gradually increase productivity that contributes to improved economic capacity; yes, you can improve social and environmental performance; and no, you don’t need to rely on child labor.
Sharing resources to scale-up ambitions
By pooling our expertise, our international coalition is better able to advance our goals. While Fairphone steers and aligns the different parties in the group, Royal Philips is conducting international market outreach to encourage suppliers to integrate responsibly sourced gold in their supply chains. At the same time, Solidaridad is building capacity at the mines to increase safety, efficiency and profits.
An investment facility will soon start providing capital to the ASMs in the form of gold processing equipment, led by the Fairtrade Foundation. This capital provision is implemented against the commitment and efforts of the artisanal mining organizations. These gradual improvements following set social and environmental criteria, eventually, can lead to Fairtrade certification.
Uniting stakeholders of our joint project during a feedback session in the office of UNICEF Uganda.
In the communities surrounding our partner mines, Hivos/Stop Child Labour is implementing two Child Labour Free Zones. It is a significant outreach effort, aiming to have contact with over 700 households, positively impacting the future of over 400 children. These children will either be prevented from entering into child labor or withdrawn from work and reintroduced to school. While this work happens on the ground, UNICEF is actively lobbying Uganda’s national parties for better legislation surrounding child labor concerns.
Keep the momentum going
We’re feeling excited about what the future holds for this consortium. Just nineteen months into the project, we have established social and environmental criteria for ASMs in Uganda to work towards, increased the transparency of our supply chains, and have begun building a coalition willing to source this responsible gold. As we keep on progressing, we are confident that in close cooperation with our partners, we can develop a sustainable, traceable gold supply in Uganda.
Partnering with regional government representatives, local officials and opinion leaders is essential for sustainable progress.
We are looking for companies that are willing to source gold from our project or to contribute financially. Together we can extend and expand this life-changing project beyond 2019. With your help, we can make a fairer future possible for miners and their families.
Get in touch:
Gersom Aliaga Ferrufino
Value Chain Fund Manager, Fairphone