As a key actor in the supply chain, you can choose to source traceable and responsibly mined precious metals, Fairtrade or Fairmined certified metals, and 100% recycled metals. The choices you make can affect positive change in the industry.
We’ve explained some of the key terms and issues around metal sourcing below.
The Supply Chain
Gold, silver and platinum, precious metals commonly used in the jewellery and electronic industries, are mined around the world. After they are extracted from rough ore and processed, they are sold through trading bodies as metal bullion. Metal refiners turn metal bullion into products such as sheet or wire, and then sell these materials to industry bodies.
Conditions of Mining
Precious metals are limited natural resources. The operating life of a metal mine can range from a year to several decades. After a mine has been depleted, restoring it to its original state is no simple task. Too often, mining sites are left to become toxic landfills, risking the health of nearby ecosystems and communities. This is only one example of the potential negative impacts of metal mining.
Metal mining occurs in both large and small-scale mines, each with different conditions, methods and access routes to the international market. There is artisanal small-scale mining (ASM) and large-scale mining (LSM) or ‘industrial/corporate’ mining.
Large scale mining is highly mechanised, formalised and regulated with standardised systems in place for maximising production and decreasing risks. Small-scale mining is more physically laborious, informal, unregulated, and often lacks state/industry support. Small-scale mining is characterised by small groups of people who typically live in poverty. These miners generally/often do not have the resources to put systems in place for maximising yields, ensuring their health and safety, or environmental protection.
As a result, artisanal small-scale miners are vulnerable to injury and over-exhaustion, as well as poisoning from improper handling of toxins. Small-scale miners rely on precarious income and have limited access to the international market. They are therefore vulnerable to trading companies who may not have their best interests at heart. Despite this, small-scale mining occurs around the world, with more than 100 million depending on the industry.
Fairtrade and Fairmined are the two main accreditation schemes that bring precious metals from artisanal small-scale mines to market. They support artisanal small-scale miners by certifying that they employ responsible mining practices in compliance with their respective standards, and by conducting regular audits to ensure those standards are maintained.
Fairtrade and Fairmined metals can be traced to their source and makers and consumers can trust that they have been mined by people who have been treated and paid fairly.
There are other organisations that assess mining companies against social and environmental standards. Some of these initiatives are also certification bodies with marks that signal compliance according to the initiatives’ standards.
Visit our Key Organisations section for a list of the active organisations in the industry and what they do.
It is important to understand the difference between the standards writing bodies that are active in the industry before choosing which to align your business with. Even if a brand is certified by an initiative that claims responsible practices, this doesn’t mean their values will be aligned with what you consider to be ethical.
Because of the nature of the metal trade, a large amount of metal in the market has already been recycled to some degree. However, 100% post-consumer recycled metals and stones are a more sustainable option as they are completely sourced from recycled content.