Tracing Gold

Take a quick look at the jewelry you’re wearing. Look at your rings, your earrings, your necklace, and your bracelet. Unless you specifically bought jewelry labeled “fair trade”, there’s a darn good chance that the gold you’re wearing was mined with child labor and/or unsafe, unethical, and environmentally damaging mining practices.

It’s heart wrenching to think about, but the gold mining industry is notorious for unethical and unsafe practices. And, it’s far more common than you might think.

For instance, just a few weeks ago MSNBC broke a story about gold mining in Mali; a four ton supply of gold was released purchased by two large companies, one in Switzerland and one in the United Arab Emerates. But, this gold was mined using child labor. This gold will likely be mixed with other golds, and then sold around the world.

The problem is that there are often so many middlemen in the gold buying and selling process that unless a jeweler (or a consumer) buys gold that’s specifically labeled fair trade, it’s very difficult to find out whether or not that gold was mined┬áresponsibly.

The good news is that the Fairtrade Foundation partnered with UK fair trade activist Greg Valerio to establish a system jewelers can use to trace their gold. This would enable them to see if the gold they were buying came from a company with a past history of child labor practices. And, the system went into effect last year. An even better piece of good news is that Valerio is now working with jewelers in the United States to create similar system.

What We Can Do

Americans consume the most gold in the world. And, there’s an easy way that we can make a big difference in the mining industry, and its use of child labor. All we have to do is purchase fair trade gold, or recycled gold.

I know it’s easy to ignore a problem like this. After all, these kids are thousands of miles away. But all you have to do is see one image, like the one below, for the problem to really hit home.

Image courtesy FightSlavery.info

When you purchase fair trade gold, or recycled gold, you’re making a statement that you’re not going to tolerate the use of child labor or unethical labor practices. If enough of us make this statement, by not sending our money to these mining companies, then they will take notice. And, they will make a change.

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