News / 1 November 2011

Green gold: demand exceeds supply

'At the moment we produce six kilos of gold per year, we cannot meet the demand,' María Luisa Villa of AMICHOCÓ from Colombia says. In the last couple of years, AMICHOCÓ has worked hard to organise small-scale sustainable gold miners and to make certification possible. Under the brand name 'Oro Verde' the Fairtrade Fairmined gold is now available on the market. 'We are ready to expand production, but the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of the rights of ethnic groups remains our priority,' Villa stresses.


The pilot project 'Oro Verde' is a success. The first groups of miners are now ready to proceed self-reliantly. The standards for certification are high. If a miner does not meet the requirements, the gold of the entire group will not be marked as 'green gold. 'Because of this shared responsibility, we can guarantee that the gold is mined in a sustainable manner.' The demand for green gold exceeds the total production four times. Two new areas have been selected to expand the project. However, it will take three years before these miners can launch certified gold on the market. 'First we have to make sure that the communities have sufficient basic organisational capacity, and that it is safe for our employees to work in the area,' Villa says.

Safety is an important issue in Colombia. The organisation has to face up to corruption and mafia practices. 'Many ethnic groups are not aware of their rights and sell their land to the highest bidder,' Villa explains. Often, these buyers are international corporations. With their great-scale mining projects, they harm the exceptional biodiversity of the Chocó bioregion and hinder local people's access to natural resources. Despite the Chocó bioregion's richness in resources, it is the poorest area of Colombia. The ethnic diversity in the region is high; in addition to several indigenous groups, many Afro-Colombians, descendants of African Slaves, live there. Besides promoting Oro Verde, AMICHOCÓ has developed various other activities to protect the biodiversity and ethnic groups in the region, like reforestation programmes, legal assistance and the project Children's Land.

Never too young to learn
'Many young people leave this area because they do not see any possibilities to build a livelihood', Villa states. 'Knowledge and traditions passed down from generation to generation will be lost because of that.' Therefore, AMICHOCÓ also focuses on children in the age of 6 to 12 years old in their education strategy. 'We want to contribute to the development of the identity of boys and girls in relation to nature by letting them actively participate in their direct environment. 'The organisation has made plots of land available where children can give shape to their own vision of the world. Within the project, each child gets a specific assignment to develop his or her entrepreneurship and organizational talents. Already more than 200 children have taken part in Children's Land.

Plans for the future
In addition to the dedication of the inhabitants of the region, the cooperation of the Colombian government is vital. AMICHOCÓ wants the government to legally recognise sustainable small-scale miners as an important part of the mining industry. International support, both from the EU as well as from organisations like Both ENDS, is more than welcome. 'Both ENDS has been very supportive from the beginning,' Villa says. 'With their help and expertise we have grown, been able to create a broad support base in local communities and to build a network with other organisations. That legitimates and thus strengthens our role in dialogues with the government. She hopes that more people become committed to the protection of the Chocó bioregion. 'The coming year, we wish to increase our influence in the region and to ensure that at least twice as many people can benefit from our projects.'

Website Amichocó

Read more about this subject