This is where it began. A small group of dreamers who thought they could change gold mining in the Chocó Region of Colombia. Miners, jewellers and all the consumers who will ultimately benefit from this brilliant idea, owe a debt of gratitude to this pioneering group of Afro-Colombian miners. They did what no-one believed would be possible. They gave gold a soul; they opened up the source and allowed the world to understand that gold has personality.

When I visited Oro Verde in 2004, I found myself surrendered, yes surrendered by beauty and wonder, toughened bodies, gentle smiles, playful souls and a golden product. This community and landscape revealed to me the true essence; the spirit of what golden jewellery is truly about.

Photo by Ronald de Hommel

Clearing the river bed of stone

The gold traders are so wrong when they talk of gold as currency, as money to be banked, as profit and hedge funds, as their statements divorce gold from its source, reveal their true motive of personal gain and profit and in doing so rob humanity of gold’s true value and story. The floor of heaven as the Apostle John wrote ‘is pure gold as transparent as glass’.  I have learnt that if you cannot see through your gold, then don’t walk with it or work with it.

Gold these days has rightly gained a very negative reputation because it is the source of so much human misery and environmental degradation. Yet here in the rainforest of the Chocó, gold found a new story, a new voice to raise, a voice of hope, of transparency, of honesty, of integrity and it is this small voice crying out in this fragile corner of Colombia that gave birth to what we are now calling fairtrade gold. This is the truly redemptive power of the justice the fairtrade movement seeks, that from the descendants of African slavery should spring the root and source of fairtrade gold that will in time impact every continent in the world.

Photo credit Ronald de Hommel

Simple tools for dignified work

Now in 2010 six years on from my first trip I listen to the same group of miners talk of their hopes for the newly launched fairtrade gold product.

“To increase my production’

‘To keep working in my mine so I can educate my children’

‘I want to finish building my house and help my children’

‘To offer jobs to young people’

‘To see a strong group of miners that will receive a good price to fulfil their dreams’.

This is the challenge that is now before us in fairtrade. To deliver on the dreams of those who have put their faith in us as ambassador’s of economic and environmental justice.

Currently the small-scale miners face many challenges. As we sat and talked the issue of water kept coming up. I found this strange as all night the tin roof over my head was being pummelled by a typical tropical rainstorm. If there are water shortages in the dry season then they cannot work. The observation from all the miners was that the climate is changing. Their grandfathers used to be able to predict the micro seasons in the region by paying attention to the early days of January. The weather during the first 12 days of each year would be the pattern for the rest of the year. The wisdom and knowledge of their forbearers had worked for generations. Now the dry seasons are more frequent, more intense, and hotter, are unpredictable and are having a negative impact on their ability to mine. When asked what they ascribe this change in the weather to they unanimously say ‘global warming, it’s getting hotter every year after all’.

Oro Verde have worked hard to mitigate this situation by investing onto alternative livelihood strategies. So when a miner cannot work his or her environmental mine, they can turn to agriculture or animal husbandry to supplement their income.

So now the fairtrade movement has the compelling challenge of transforming the jewellery sector, shop by shop, mine by mine, customer by customer. Its successes in tea, coffee, banana’s and other products have laid a foundation for the transformation of the oldest trade in the world (after prostitution). It is my conviction as one of the founders of this fairtrade & fairmined gold movement we can deliver on the promise. Not without problems or difficulties, we will make many mistakes but a miner from the Chocó once said when challenged with the question of failure, his simple reply was ‘We will just keep walking’.

We now have the best  gold story in the world. Fairtrade & fairmined gold is the future and no one can take the future away from those who lay hold of it in good faith and in a righteous cause.

To learn more about the fairtrade & fairmined gold standard please visit

To discover more about Oro Verde the go to

If you are a jeweller based in Europe and want to purchase Oro Verde Gold please contact their distribution partner CRED Sources