Fairtrade Mines in Peru

Fairtrade Mines in Peru

Written by Laurie McGrath on 27 June 2016

Where does my gold come from and is it mined fairly? In the jewellery industry this is becoming an increasingly common question. If you are lucky enough to own a ring made of certified Fairtrade gold, it is very likely your gold came from one of two mines in Peru, Minera Aurifera Cuatro de Enerno, also know as the Macdesa mine and Sociedad de Trabajadores Mineros, which is better known as the Sotrami mine.

Recently, I attended a presentation given by Victoria Waugh, who is the account manager for gold at the Fairtrade Foundation in London. Her inspiring talk about all things Fairtrade gold drew my attention to these two individual mines and I wanted to write about them in a bit more depth.

The aims of the Fairtrade foundation are to help small scale producers globally, who are often the most marginalized producers in the market, to maintain their livelihoods and achieve their full potential through trade rather than aid handouts. Gold may be a glamorous and luxury product but small-scale miners of gold are very much in need of this support in the same way coffee and banana producers are for example. Indeed, these producers are the kind we more commonly associate with the Fairtrade movement and we are very well used to seeing the distinctive logo on our coffee, tea, bananas and chocolate.

The Sotrami mine was first established by a group of informal artisanal miners in 1989. It became Fairtrade certified in 2011 [1]. The mine is located in central Peru in the Atacama desert and it tunnels deep into the side of a mountain consisting of very hard rock. Pumps are used to take down the 12 level deep mine to ensure miners have a healthy working environment. Prior to working with Fairtrade the miners sold their gold locally, and their involvement in Fairtrade means that they can now sell globally which means better prices and greater demand for their produce. The mine has even won an industry award recently for best practice in the small scale mining sector.

There are now more than 300 miners working at Sotrami and it is estimated that workers support over 500 families at home in the nearby town of Santa Filomena. The Fairtrade Premium has been used by the families to create a pre-school for their children and in the future they plan to use the premium to establish a reliable source of clean water.[2]

The Macdesa mine has more recently gained Fairtrade certification. Like Sotrami the mine is also in the Arequipa region of western Peru, and most of it’s miners have settled in the nearby village of Cuatro Horas. Their involvement in Fairtrade and the premium they stand to gain by working under the scheme has come at a very good time for the local community as 80% of it was destroyed in a 2015 fire. The miners determination to become Fairtrade certified was a group effort over several years and now they plan to build a school, housing and provide health care provision in order to help restore the damage done by the fire.[3]

There are nearly 300 miners working at Macdesa and they produce around 25kg of metal every month. Alongside them there are 60 women who work privately at the site sorting through the tail end of the hard rock in search of gold hidden within them. They then sell these back to Macdesa.[4]

Working life is very hard at the Macdesa mine, with miners working in a shallow but greatly extended tunnel into the side of a mountain to find gold. Miners work 20 days on and 10 days off and working in a remote location means this long period of leave is necessary in order for workers to travel to see their families in other far away parts of Peru. [5]

So it is vitally important to ask your jeweller where their gold comes from, after all, what happens to be a luxury product to us is a lifeline to whole communities in South America. Without Fairtrade, small scale miners like these would continue to toil in difficult, uncertain and even hazardous ways to produce gold which they wouldn’t even get a fair price for, simply to survive.  

Browse our Fairtrade gold engagement rings here http://www.hkjewellery.co.uk/fairtrade-engagement-rings


[1] http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/media-centre/blog/2015/august/gold-a-precarious-existence

[2] Waugh, Victoria, Harriet Kelsall Fairtrade Presentation, February 2016.


[4] Waugh, Victoria, Harriet Kelsall Fairtrade Presentation, February 2016.

[5] http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/media-centre/blog/2015/august/gold-a-precarious-existence