Introducing world's first Fairtrade gold from Africa

non Fairtrade gold mine in Uganda copyright Ian Berry Magnum

Fairtrade makes history today (21 September 2017) when it announces the first ever shipment of African Fairtrade gold from Uganda, with a select number of pieces made from the precious metal expected to go on sale in stores in time for Christmas.

Fairtrade makes history today (21 September 2017) when it announces the first ever shipment of African Fairtrade gold from Uganda, with a select number of pieces made from the precious metal expected to go on sale in stores in time for Christmas. 

These symbolic grains of African Fairtrade gold are revealed to delegates at a Fairtrade Foundation conference Fairtrade Gold: Future Innovations at the Goldsmiths Centre, when Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, unveils Fairtrade’s innovative work to help transform the lives of artisanal small scale miners across Africa by providing access to international markets and finance. 

Fairtrade are supporting small scale mine sites in East Africa to access international markets on improved terms of trade. The first formal full ‘trade’ of African gold, from Uganda, takes place in October, with CRED Jewellers, supported by Greg Valerio and EWAD. Fairtrade will then scale up work to reach other mine sites from Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and to grow the volume of Fairtrade gold available to be exported on Fairtrade terms. 

Fairtrade certified gold will reach not just jewellers, but businesses in the tech sector too.

In addition to the Fairtrade price, the ambition is to generate $50,000 worth of impact for miners via the Fairtrade Premium by 2020 [1] through sales of the gold to a range of jewellers and manufacturers.

Gidney announces an ambitious new partnership to include technology businesses Fairphone and Philips. Launching fully in 2018, and funded by the Dutch Government, the partnership supports artisanal small scale gold mines in Busia, Uganda, to responsibly mine gold and eventually sell their gold into the supply chains of these technology businesses, establishing a blueprint for others in the technology sector to learn from. The programme will be delivered in collaboration between Fairtrade, Solidaridad, HIVOS and UNICEF. 

Gidney introduces the cutting-edge new Investment Facility which has been carefully designed to give artisanal small-scale gold miners access to finance, often for the first time, to invest in cleaner, more efficient equipment for processing gold. This will reduce miners’ reliance on mercury and accelerate their alignment with Fairtrade standards.  

Michael Gidney says: “These first pioneering grains of gold I am showing you today symbolise so much. They represent safer working conditions, hope, and better lives for miners who struggle to put food on their table each day. 

“We use gold for so much, from mobile phones, medical devices, and computers to medals and luxury jewellery. Gold not only symbolizes prosperity and luxury but also has the potential to create economic security in all the lives it touches”.

Artisanal small-scale miners are important suppliers to the international jewellery, fashion, ICT and electronics sectors. Currently, lack of transparency in conventional supply chains makes it virtually impossible for consumers to know where and under what conditions the gold in their jewellery or phones was mined.

In Uganda, 130,000 [2] people are directly employed through artisanal smallscale gold mining, and a further 800,000 benefit indirectly. Unlicensed artisanal gold miners produce as much as 2.8 [3] metric tons of gold per year, which would be enough for 82 million mobile phones [4]. Yet, almost all artisanal gold is mined and exported illegally. Unregulated gold mining has led to conflicts in the mining sector, competition for land use, smuggling of gold, child labour, human rights abuses, environmental and human health concerns and tax revenue losses.

Gidney concludes: “This is all about the people of the land benefitting from their resources that are in that land. It is economic, social and environmental justice for the poor. 

“Through our work with African mine sites, Fairtrade directly addresses the endemic social and environmental challenges present in artisanal mining, to bring about direct benefits for artisanal small scale mining communities in a way that no other system has done.”

As a backdrop to the evening, Fairtrade opens a one-off photography exhibition by award-winning Magnum photographer Ian Berry at the Goldsmiths’ Centre. The exhibition, called ‘Mine to Maker’, gives a glimpse of the reality faced by some mining communities in Busia, Uganda, and their journey with Fairtrade to improve their lives. 

Ian Berry’s exhibition at the Goldsmiths’ Centre is open to the public until 27th October as part of a curated series of events entitled #redefiningluxury during the London Design Festival. It joins Fair Luxury Presents, a jewellery showcase of intricately crafted pieces by new and established makers using Fairtrade and other sustainably sourced materials, in synergy with the highest standards of skilled craftsmanship and design. 

-ENDS-

[1] This figure equates to 25kg of gold, split between 2018, 2019 and 2020 at 8kg per year

[2] Hinton (2005)

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/20/child-labour-uganda-gold-mines-silence-far-from-golden  

[4] Cell phones contain 0.034 grams of gold in each unit.

For additional information or footage, please contact

Martine Parry - martine.parry@fairtrade.org.uk / 020 7440 7695 / 07886 301486

Emily McCoy - Emily.mccoy@fairtrade.org.uk / 020 7440 7692