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Fair mining Better Gold Initiative to be widened

Gold - as stored in a bank

(Keystone)

A Swiss-sponsored responsible mining initiative for artisanal gold miners is to be extended to Colombia and Bolivia. It is currently being carried out in Peru.

The confirmation of the move came as the results of a reportexternal link into the first three years of the project were presented in Bern on Friday.

The Better Gold Initiative for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (BGI) was set up as a public-private project. It is supported by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECOexternal link) and the Swiss Better Gold Associationexternal link, made up of leading players in the gold supply chain: refiners, watchmakers, jewellers and financial institutions.

Switzerland is an important player in the gold trade, being home, for example to four of the six largest refineries worldwide.

The idea of the BGI to improve the situation for artisanal miners. The aim is to develop a market for gold from certified mines, respecting internationally-recognised sustainability standards.

First phase

“The first phase has been a success,” said Thomas Hentschel, the project’s director. Cooperation or contact is taking place with eight mines in Peru. Around one tonne of raw gold has been delivered from Peru to Switzerland from certified mines since the project began, he added.

In autumn 2013, six months after the BGI was launched, just 25 kilogrammes were delivered. However, it was not possible to show how much these figures compared to the total amount of raw gold reaching Switzerland.

Hentschel said that around 1,500 miners had been helped by the initiative, with a further 4,000 people gaining help more indirectly.

Second phase

Due to increased interest in - and need for - the Better Gold Initiative, the project will be now enter Phase 2 and be extended to Colombia and Bolivia – as expected.

“The mines in Colombia form an important part of people’s income,” Julian Jaramillo, the Colombian ambassador to Switzerland, at Friday’s media conference. This cooperation is therefore very important for development and prosperity in the country, he stated.

Expansion means that up to an estimated five to ten tonnes of sustainably-produced gold could reach the Swiss market in the mid-term, Hentschel said.

Reaction

The BGI is aimed at making a direct link between artisanal miners and Swiss industry. “Miners should profit as much as possible from gold sales,” Hentschel said. Unlike other commercial agreements, the BGI offers bonuses to certified miners that can be used for social and environmental improvements.

In reaction, the Society for Threatened Peoples welcomed the support for artisanal miners, but said in a statement external linkthat the BGI was “no instrument to fight against the production and trade of gold from dirty sources”. Swiss refineries should be obliged to show more transparency regarding the sourcing of gold, it said.

When swissinfo.ch visited a Peruvian mine joining the BGI in 2016, it found that producing gold sustainably was not always easy, as there were hurdles. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj

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