The Fairmined project was founded in 2004 by the Alliance for Responsible Mining as a way for jewelers to support the artisanal sector. Laura Galvis, the program’s market development executive, explains how brands can get involved.
Can you describe what Fairmined gold is?
Fairmined is a label that certifies gold from empowered, responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations. In order to be certified, they must meet the strict legal, technical, organizational, social and environmental requirements of the Fairmined Standard, which requires huge changes and investing a lot of resources — human, technical, technological and economical. The process can take anywhere from six to 24 months.
How does it help miners?
Miners are paid a fair price for their gold — at least 95% of the international gold price — and they receive an additional premium they can invest in their organization, their people and the planet. Between 2014 and 2021, certified mining organizations have benefited [from] over $6.2 million [in premiums], which has been invested in improving operations and providing social development and environmental protection. We also give miners access to the international market, where over 1,500 kilograms of Fairmined gold have been sold from 2014 to 2021.
What sets Fairmined apart from other gold-certification schemes?
One of the most important aspects is that it awards the miners the highest premium available in the market. This is crucial, because we primarily work with small-scale mining organizations [that don’t produce a lot of gold, so] a lower premium doesn’t have a significant impact. In addition, Fairmined offers ecological gold — the only certified gold of its type on the market that doesn’t use any toxic chemicals in the extraction process, and guarantees that additional measures are taken to protect the environment.
How much gold is being produced?
Currently, there are seven Fairmined-certified mines, all of them located in Colombia and Peru. They vary in size and production capacity: The smallest one produces between 1 to 2 kilos monthly, and the largest one can produce up to 15 kilos per month. Due to the limited number of certified mines at the moment and their small production compared to large-scale mines, Fairmined gold represents less than 1% of global gold production. But the number of mines interested in joining the initiative is growing, and we see a great potential to scale up the offer of Fairmined gold, as the artisanal and small-scale mining sector is responsible for 20% of [worldwide] gold production.
Is the supply consistent?
Yes, right now there is a consistent supply of Fairmined gold. Having more designers and brands turning to Fairmined sourcing is necessary to transform more mining organizations and their communities. This year alone, two new mines earned their certification, and ensuring demand is key to retaining them.
How can jewelers buy Fairmined gold?
It is key to join the Fairmined initiative as licensed brands. The licensing process is very straightforward and can be completed within days. Through this process, you will learn the different sourcing models you can use, [as well as] the steps to take to ensure full traceability in your creations and identify the right partners and suppliers to start your project. You can complete the process by signing the licensing agreement, completing the required documentation, and paying the annual fee of $60. We also now have authorized suppliers offering findings, components and even gold-plating services, all in Fairmined gold.
How much is the premium on this gold, and should jewelers pass it on to customers?
The premium is $4 per gram on Fairmined gold and $6 per gram on Fairmined ecological gold. As a brand, whether you should absorb or pass on this premium depends completely on your business model, but take into account that rather than just adding a cost, using Fairmined-certified metals adds a lot of value to your creations.
Can jewelers mix Fairmined with other metals?
There is a sourcing model that allows you to do this [and still have Fairmined certification]: the Fairmined Incorporated model, which is flexible and allows the mixing of Fairmined gold with other sources of gold. [In contrast,] under the Fairmined Labeled model, brands must ensure that all the gold in a given piece or collection is exclusively made with Fairmined metal, and must follow strict rules of traceability and composition.
Tell us about the Fairmined 100 Challenge.
The objective was to launch 100 Fairmined collections within a year and showcase all of them together, bringing full visibility to the Fairmined supply chain. The results and winners of the challenge are to be announced in a webinar scheduled for October 11, but I can [say in advance] that the challenge has surpassed all our expectations, launching 127 collections. It turned out to be a great experience to learn and to develop new ideas for upcoming editions, and an opportunity to share with the world what Fairmined is all about and strategies that will help us bring awareness to many at a time.