Launch of Fairtrade gold from Africa

The Fairtrade Foundation has launched an ambitious new investment opportunity to over 100 delegates including donors, funders, businesses and celebrity ambassadors at a conference Fairtrade Gold: Future Innovations.

The Investment Facility will help small scale mine sites across East Africa access low interest loans to invest in the productivity of their operations and to accelerate their journey towards Fairtrade certification. The fund provides a new way for mine sites to benefit from partnering with Fairtrade, as well as providing businesses and investors with a new route for supporting the accelerating of a responsible small-scale mining sector.

The Facility will be an open-ended vehicle that has the potential to scale significantly and deploy between 1 and 2 million USD over the next few years.

Speaking at the conference, Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation said: “We have been listening to mining groups and the challenges they face to mine responsibly and have, in response, generated a number of innovations at the mine and market levels.

“We have also been working to secure the safe passage of gold from mine to market.

“Working with CRED, we are delighted this evening to announce the first trial shipment of Fairtrade certified gold from Africa, including a commemorative ring.”

Gidney also shared with delegates that: 

  • Small volumes of Fairtrade Gold from Uganda will be in selected jewellery lines in time for Christmas this year, and an export platform which will provide miners with a route to market will be finalised during 2018
  • Between now and 2020 Fairtrade will be working with partners to grow the volume of certified Fairtrade gold reaching the UK market from mine sites in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya

Finally, Gidney announced that Fairtrade will be extending its partnerships on the market side, growing its work with technology businesses, including Fairphone and Philips to assist these firms with plans to incorporate responsibly mined gold from Africa in their phones and other tech items. 

“We would like to extend our thanks to Comic Relief and to the Dutch Government for working with Fairtrade to help finance these innovations,” Gidney continued.

Other speakers at the conference included Laura Gerritsen from Fairphone, who told their story, as a technology business about why responsibly sourced gold matters to them and how they are working with Fairtrade and others to incorporate African gold into their supply chains.

Gonzaga Mungai, Fairtrade Africa’s Gold Manager, told the  story of Fairtrade Gold to date, highlighting key learnings from the last 9 years and introducing the basic rationale for why Fairtrade is now promoting an “investment-led” approach for reaching and working with new mine sites.

Ruth Ruderham, spoke in her capacity as Director of Grants for Comic Relief. She articulated the case for investment-led programming, from the perspective of a donor agency who have themselves provided substantial financial support to aid Fairtrade’s innovations work in the mining sector.

Finally, Assheton Carter, Director of The Dragonfly Initiative, a mining consultancy who have been working with Fairtrade, a cadre of impact investment advisors and legal professionals to design an Investment Facility for small scale miners. During this talk he explained how the Facility is set up, how it will function and how you can directly get involved through investment or grant finance.

As a backdrop to the evening, Fairtrade opened 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. 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. 

Ian Berry,  from Magnum Photos said: “The thing that struck me the most was to see a whole village essentially dig their back garden, shift tons of earth, sluice the gold-bearing soil through sieves and cloths, amalgamate any minute specks of gold with mercury and then sell the resulting nugget to a middleman who gives them less than a 20th of what gold is worth on the open market. It’s back-breaking, heart-breaking work that doesn’t improve their lives no matter how hard they push themselves.”

Alan Frampton, CEO of Cred Jewellery: “At Cred we are delighted to be right at the cutting edge of this symbolic launch. We believe in making beautiful jewellery that has ethical integrity. We are set apart by offering full transparency, personal relationship with the source and our commitment to Fairtrade. Not only that, but our jewellery is also beautifully designed.”


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