Jewellery Designer & Goldsmith

My Trip to the Fairmined Gold Mines in Peru

My Trip To The Fairmined gold mines

I choose Fairmined Gold

As a Fairmined licensee, it is important to me to visit the gold mines where the gold for my jewellery comes from, therefore I choose to make the trip to Peru and see the mines for myself.

Have you ever asked yourself why you should choose Fairmined Gold? For me it was simple.

Firstly, with Fairmined gold, there is the social and environmental impact the Fairmined Certification has on the miners, and secondly, the transparent blockchain from mine to market.

These are just two of the reasons to choose to have your jewellery made in Fairmined gold..

Ring in Fairmined Eco gold

This ring is handmade in 18ct  Fairmined Eco yellow gold. First, it is hand-carved in wax, then cast into gold by Fairmined licensee, Vipa Designs, UK. There are only two Fairmined licensed gold casters in Europe. 

After casting, the three prongs are soldered in place for the centre gemstone.

The ring is set with a trillian-cut sphene and three pink sapphires. All four gemstones come from Miadana gemstones, which support responsible artisanal small-scale mining in Madagascar.

Visit of three Fairmined Mines in Peru at 4660M

A meeting point between miners and jewellers, connected by ethical en traceable gold.

Miners are continuously trained to improve their responsible mining techniques and to change their mindset.

CECOMIP

This mine is Fairmined certified since 2016 and is an Artisanal Small-Scale Mining cooperation with 200 miners consisting of 63 women and 137 men.

CECOMIP is an alluvial mine; which means “open sky”. Digging large areas to extract the gold from the earth. With high-power pressure hoses, the gold is separate from the sediment.

What is alluvial mining?

Behind me and the miners is a large pit. This large geometric hole is an alluvial mine or “open sky” mine for the extraction of Fairmined eco gold. Meaning, there is no use of toxic chemicals, such as mercury and cyanide.

All three companies CECOMIP, Oro Puno, and Cruz Pata extract approximately 4 kilos of gold per month from alluvial mining.

Most importantly, what happens to the soil once removed? Well just read a little further and it is explained…

My Trip To The Fairmined gold mines

In the first image, the women miners are washing the course gold and separating it from the sediment, by means of panning instead of using mercury. CECOMIP has chosen to be environmentally conscience.

In image two and three you see how the fine gold is separated from the sediment in the gravimetric table (by means of shaking). Water is used throughout the mining process and this too, is recycled, filtered and reused. Circular business.

During the visit to Oro Puno the miners asked if we, ARM (Alliance for Responsible Mining) could give them contacts in other countries, which they could visit to bring new technologies to improve their filtering pools. So they want to keep improving their activities in a sustainable way.

 

Oro Puno

Here, separation is by the same method as in CECOMIP. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that all the Fairmined mines practice circular mining.

The water is caught in large pools, then filtered and cleaned, at the end, the clean water is reused again during the washing of the gold with high pressure hoses. The only time water is lost is through natural evaporation.

Oro Puno is the main mine I source my gold from to create the jewellery I make for those who choose Fairmined. They are actually the first mine to be Eco-certified in Peru. It is also a smaller organisation.

Eco certified means that they no longer use mercury or other toxic chemicals to extract the gold. It also means that the mine invests in alternative ways to extract the gold by using ancient techniques such as panning and shaking-tables. 

The Peruvian Government has stated the by 2023 gold mining by means of mercury will be illegal. They chemical will be banned as part of the gold mining process. In Colombia the use of mercury has been banned in the gold mining process since 2018.

ethical wedding rings
Gold and gemstone earrings
Fairmined silver gemstone ring

These three pictures are jewels that I have made in Fairmined Ecological gold or Fairmined silver. The gemstones and champagne diamonds come from responsible mining. The silver ring with oval sphene and turquoise sapphires is also part of the #Fairmined100challenge

What happens to a disused mine?

Fairmined mining

Mines can be excavated up to 15 years.

Topsoil and base soil are first removed and stored separately to allow mining. Once the mine is finished and there is no more gold to excavate, the base soil and then the topsoil are put back and vegetation is planted over it, to create a greenbelt. In short, circular mining practice.

Left Image: courtesy of Keiko Oshima, Gemologist, representing Mori Bijoux on the Peru trip practice

Cruz Pata

My Trip To The Fairmined gold mines

This mine has a few differences from the aforementioned mines. It has only recently been certified Fairmined, subsequently, still using a small amount of mercury in a safe and controlled environment (by contained evaporation).

Cruz Pata is also a family run mine. It counts 26 miners. Six brothers own the mine, who inherited the site from their father.

Left Image: Agustin Pachari, Head of the Mining Project at Cruz Pata Chaquiminas (and one of the six brothers)

My Trip To The Fairmined gold mines

From Fairmined to Fairmined Ecological

Cruz Pata is taking its time to stop using mercury because they want to explore new ways to recover gold that will guarantee better recuperation rates. Currently, Cruz Pata only recuperates 40% of the gold present in the soil. The goal of their research is to see how they can improve the recuperation rate. To improve it they must improve the “lavado process” (washing stage). The gravimetric table can’t really improve the recuperation rate because most of the losses happen before this stage (at the washing stage). Instead of investing money in the purchasing of a gravimetric table, the miners of Cruz Pata, are firstly, studying their options. See how they can improve their water management resources . Sending samples to laboratories to receive more guidance, however this is a long process.

The image on the right, is an evaporator for mercury. This is the last process for separating fine gold from the sediment. Most importantly, it is done in a controlled and secure environment.

By 2023 mercury will be eradicated as be part of the process at Cruz Pata. From the moment a mine receives its Fairmined certification, they have three years to become ecological, if they don’t achieve this within that timespan, they loose their certification. 

My Trip To The Fairmined gold mines
Fairmined Gold

Cruz Pata is a family business and to generate more income, they went back to farming, as that is what their grandfather was. Behind Lisseth, mining engineer at Cruz Pata, there is a large lake with rain water and here they breed trout. It is a very a popular fish in Peru and you will find it everywhere on the menu

Alongside trout farming, they also breed alpacas for their wool. Alpaca wool is very expensive and difficult to get hold of in Peru, as it all goes for export to Europe and the US. Sadly due to this, most Peruvians can’t afford the alpaca wool. But luckily for the Cruz Pata miners, it creates a great source for their second income, to help fund their mining business.

The Fairmined mining activity is performed by local miners who want the development and wellbeing of the community, which ensures their commitment to the environment preservation and the development of the community. It also ensures a positive impact on human rights within the Fairmined mining communities.

Fairmined eco gold
ethically made jewellery

Thank you for choosing gold you can be proud of… Ask for the origins of your gold… Every gram counts to make a positive impact 

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