I consider myself the most fortunate of fine jewellers ever. It has been a career highlight to have been mentored in this most ancient of professions by the communities who stand over the source of my materials. From my earliest adventures with the Afro-Colombian communities in the alluvial gold fields of Colombia, I have witnessed true ecological integrity in gold mining that has been a career defining inspiration to me.

Ameriko Mosquera an Afro-Colombian alluvial mining ecological free gold. Photo by Ronald de Hommel

Ameriko Mosquera an Afro-Colombian alluvial mining ecological free gold. Photo by Ronald de Hommel

Ameriko and friends taught me that you can mine gold in a way that protects the integrity of the earth and directly benefits the pockets of the local community. Ecological gold mining is not a fiction, or a fantasy, it is the means by which poor local artisanal and alluvial mining communities can transform their livelihoods, improve their public health and conserve their precious environment from toxic contamination. This is why I am working to secure Ecological Fairtrade Gold mining communities in Uganda.

The Curse of Mercury.

No-one, jewellers especially, should ignore the fact that mercury is systemic in gold mining. Traditionally mercury amalgamation is the cheap way of processing gold from hard rock by small-scale miners. Mercury is cheap, readily available and easy to use.

Pippa Small with Stella Adeke in Uganda July 2015.

Pippa Small with Stella Adeke and Hakim (left) in Uganda July 2015.

But as the beautiful Stella Adeke from the Tiira Woman’s Mining Group in Busia, Uganda explained to me last year, mercury can have devastating health consequences. She recounted her story as a young pregnant miner breathing in methyl mercury fumes in her home as she burned the mercury & gold amalgam in her kitchen. Her second child Hakim now lives with permanent eye damage that is likely to be the result of mercury poisoning. Stella’s story is not isolated, the local gynecological Doctor at the Busia Health Clinic described the very real ante-natal and post natal challenges they faced with ‘above national averages’ of still-births, birth defects and premature births they were having to deal with that he attributed to the high level of mercury usage in the local area.

20% of the world’s gold supply coming from artisanal gold miners, this equates to 500 tonnes of gold per annum. To process one kilo of gold through the hands of a small-scale miner you need to use three kilos of mercury. This mercury processed gold ends up in our jewellery. Because the gold jewellery supply chain has no ability to regulate its own industry, jewellers have no way of knowing if the gold they sell has left a toxic legacy, therefore jewellers don’t talk about it. This is one of the jewellery trades most carefully hidden scandals.

Valerio Jewellery Signature Mens Court Wedding Ring. 18ct. Fairtrade yellow gold.

Valerio Jewellery Signature Men’s Court Wedding Ring. 18ct. Fairtrade yellow gold.

For my customers, it is vital that they know the gold I use not only comes from a Fairtrade source, but that I am going beyond Fairtrade. With every purchase of a Valerio wedding ring I will donate £20 to the Mercury Free Gold fund being administrated by the CRED Foundation in partnership with Fairtrade Africa and Fair Jewelry Action. This fund is specifically targeted to address appropriate technology interventions with small-scale gold miners in Africa. These miners agree to work with Fairtrade Africa towards becoming Fairtrade Gold suppliers and in return for their commitment they will receive carefully selected equipment that will mean that miners like Stella never have to touch or use mercury in their gold processing again. I am very proud to stand with communities like these in Uganda and be a part of the solution to eradicating mercury from gold forever.

Let’s share the information.

For more information on the Mercury Free Gold fund please download the background document here and re-tweet, share on Facebook and tell your friends and family that buying gold jewellery could be a part cleaning up the world’s environment one gold mine at a time.

Download Here. Going For Fair Trade Ecological Gold_Nov_15