There are about 15 million artisanal and small-scale gold miners across the world. These artisanal miners – men and women who subsistence mine by hand in an unregulated environment – comprise 90 percent of the global mining workforce. And over 99 percent of them currently use toxic mercury to get at the gold hidden inside the dirt and rock they’ve pulled from the earth.
Why Gold Miners Use Mercury
Here’s how it works: a miner pulverizes the rock containing the gold bits into powder, then mixes mercury with the ore and water, creating a mercury-gold mixture called an “amalgam.” The mercury sucks in the gold away from the dirt or rock. The amalgam is then heated to vaporize the mercury, which floats into the air like a toxic steam, and leaves the gold behind. At each step in this process, mercury is released into the environment.
To be fair, large industrial mines also release mercury and other toxic tailings into the environment. But artisanal and small-scale mining is the largest source of mercury pollution on earth. Approximately 400 metric tonnes of airborne elemental mercury emissions are released each year. And 70 percent of the gold produced annually by these miners is used to make the jewelry that we have been buying, gifting, wearing, and loving.
Once your eyes have been opened, it’s hard to look at your beloved gold jewelry the same way.
Mercury vapors travel long distances, persist in the environment forever, enter food sources, and bio-accumulate in animals (and humans) where it can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys. Symptoms after inhaling mercury include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction, plus kidney failure, and even death. Its waste causes irreversible damage to the local environment and to the health of the surrounding communities. Experts agree that there is no safe level of exposure to mercury. And yet, artisanal and small-scale miners – and their families, including children and pregnant women – handle mercury with their hands and breathe it in almost every day for years.
The Fairmined Initiative does certify mines who use efficient technologies and are socially and environmentally responsible, accrediting them with the Fairmined Gold title. However, these same mines continue to use toxic chemicals, including mercury, in their gold mining processes, albeit more responsibly.
Similarly, while recycled gold reuses gold that was originally mined with mercury emissions, it doesn’t provide a solution to the mercury emissions crisis caused by gold being mined today and for the future. And it doesn’t help gold miners who rely on artisanal mining as their only possibility to earn an livable income.
The Purest Gold in the World is Nontoxic, Mercury-Free, and Ethically Sourced
But thankfully, there is another, more rarified and eco-friendly category of gold that is certified by Fairmined, the only gold mined without the use of mercury.
It’s called Fairmined Ecological Gold, and less than one percent of the world’s mines honorably obtains this pure gold without the use of mercury and cyanide, and under stringent enough environmental practices to be certified under this system. Only gravimetric methods, which use gravity tools such as vortexes, centrifuges, and shaking tables, are allowed, and the mine is also required to minimize ecological disruption and restore local native ecosystems.
In fact, there are only three mines in the world currently qualified as Fairmined Ecological, one is located in Mongolia, a country in which rural people are finding their way of life upended by climate change, and so have no other potential source of income available to them other than gold mining, and the other is in Peru. This Fairmined Ecological certification allows these workers to earn a living in a safe environment, without destroying their ancestral home.
Fairmined Ecological Gold is the future. And, it is the only gold that Futura sources.
Fairmined Ecological Gold is the Future
Futura believe in positive change and in our right to transparency when making more thoughtful buying choices. We believe that through the conscious decision of Certified Fairmined Ecological gold, we encourage more mines and miners to adopt safe and sustainable mining practices.
This is the future of gold, and it’s liberating. We invite you to join the more modern approach to selecting your gold jewelry. We invite you to choose Futura Jewelry.