Is an ethical gold revolution coming to East Africa?

Small-scale gold mining is dangerous, unhealthy work in East Africa, but that could soon be changing.

Globally, 10-15 percent of gold supplies are produced by an estimated 15 million small-scale gold miners who make up more than 90 percent of the global gold extraction workforce. And much of that work is being done in poor conditions. In Tanzania, Africa's fourth largest gold producer, children as young as eight work in structurally unsound mines and are exposed to dangerous levels of mercury. But practices like this may soon be changing for gold miners in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, The Guardian reports, thanks to a program from Fairtrade International:

Under a three-year scheme funded by Comic Relief, the mines are changing working practices – banning children, enforcing health and safety rules and preventing toxic run off – in the hope that shoppers in Europe, Asia and America will be prepared to pay more for "green gold."

In return they will get a fairer price for their gold and a Fairtrade premium that can be invested in mines, education, childcare and community groups.

According to Fairtrade International, 12 mines could become Africa's first fairtrade gold mines within a year.

But it won't be the organization's first attempt at changing the way gold is sourced from small-scale miners. The organization runs a similar program in South America that, The Guardian reports, requires that miners receive a price of 95 percent of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) -- "higher than they would normally get from selling to local brokers" -- for their gold. A fairtrade premium of $2,000 per kg of fine gold is also paid out to be invested in the local community.

Read more: The Guardian, Fairtrade International

Photo: Flickr/tlupic

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