Spotlight on Gold
Gold has been a global symbol of wealth, power, luxury and beauty for thousands of years. The Inca of Peru, for example, used real craftsmanship in turning the shiny metal into fine pieces of jewellery that would become family heirlooms of great emotional significance.
Of course, gold is not only used in the jewellery sector. It also enjoys the status of being a crisis-proof financial investment, originally used to back up national currencies. And in the culinary sector, chefs around the world are experimenting with edible gold, turning their dishes into memorable experiences of glamour and luxury.
Surprising to many people is the fact that gold has extensive applications in the electronics and health sectors, where it is used in computer chips. Hold a smartphone and you’re holding a tiny bit of gold in your hand.
Because of the variety of ways that gold is used, its value has been steadily increasing in recent years. However, despite being perceived as a luxury product associated with wealth and prosperity, the millions of people that mine it struggle to make a decent living.
Artisanal gold and small-scale mining
The artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector has achieved infamous status thanks to its association with conflict minerals. While an issue of great importance, conflict minerals are geographically restricted to just a few areas, most prominently the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where militia control mining areas, forcing men, women and children to work in dangerous and undignified working conditions. The income generated through the sale of this gold is used to perpetuate war efforts. This conflict gold then becomes part of the complex and opaque gold-selling sector and is often impossible to trace back to its origin.
ASGM contributes more than 20% of the world’s gold with more than 11 million people employed in the sector. Most of these people have nothing to do with violent conflict yet are consistently overlooked and underserved by national governments, global businesses and the banking sector.
The Impact Facility is fully aware of the challenges that these people face and believes that through positive engagement ASGM can be turned into a viable source of responsible gold and a catalyst for sustainable development of disadvantaged mining communities.
The challenges of artisanal gold mining
The challenges of the sector are wide ranging and can differ geographically due to national laws, availability of resources such as water, and competition with other livelihoods such as farming. In our engagement with the mines, we try to address the issues that are specific to the operation at hand.