A personal reflection on the work of PeaceGold (10 minute read)

Peace is the necessary precondition for the human family to thrive. I have always believed in active peace, a societal state of wholeness, fullness and the opportunity to thrive as the human family. The tragedy of war and conflict is it shatters our harmony, destabilises the fabric of our shared humanity, dismantles our ability to see the best in each other and fosters hatred for ‘the other’. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country that has found its way into my heart over the last 10 years. A country with the tragic record of the longest running conflict in the world. A country struggling with the legacy of European (Belgian) colonialism, western and Chinese neo-colonialism and ethnic destabilisation from its immediate neighbours. For what purpose? Everyone wants the easy and seemingly endless mineral wealth in the rich red soils of Congo.

In 2013 CRC approached me in my capacity as a leading exponent of Fairtrade Gold and ethical jewellery to visit Ituri and speak with CRC, the ex-combatant miners and discuss how we might formalise gold for peace into a PeaceGold programme. As an ethical jeweller and activist.

I am not a political historian, anthropologist or social scientist, so to delve into the mystery of Congo’s history, exploitation, collective trauma, is a little above my pay-grade, so I defer to the excellent work of FIDEL BAFILEMBA & JOHN PRENDERGAST who have co-authored the harrowing and hope filled book and website entitled Congo Stories: Battling Five centuries of exploitation and greed.  Yet during the past 10 years, I have witnessed in this most resilient of countries, there remains the true light of hope. If peace were allowed to flourish, it will lead to a land filled with justice, peace and prosperity for everyone. This is the hope we work towards. 

Comalobani PeaceGold Cooperative

Comalobani PeaceGold Cooperative

The PeaceGold Programme  

Building a grass roots movement.

The PeaceGold programme its tangible. It involves gold mining coops, civil society peace building organisation, local communities where gold is mined, local town leadership, territorial and provincial authorities. This is slow work, but an oak tree of righteousness has deep roots, grows slowly and is therefore strong.

The branches of our programme are:

  • Peace Building Education – Working with CRC to build out peace making and conflict resolution strategies for communities. This also involves the demobilisation and reintegration of ex-militia where possible.
  • Mercury Free gold mining using appropriate and contextual technology.
  • National Legal Registration, compliance and alignment with the Congolese mineral code, ICGLR and OECD diligences on sourcing gold from conflict effected areas.
  • Best practice in artisanal small-scale mining using the Craft Code (please click here to watch a short clip explaining Craft)
  • The 1% social fund. Each Coop agrees to set aside 1% of the traded value in gold, which they invest into their own community development. This is a community based response by the COOPs to uplift their communities and commitment to social cohesion, peace building and up holding human rights.

Our PeaceGold model has emerged from within the Cooperatives and communities themselves. Gold miners are asking for legitimate stability in trade, mercury free processing, and have embraced the social impact element enthusiastically. It is not an exaggeration to say we are being approached monthly by mining groups who want to get onto the programme. People are tired of war, they want peace and prosperity. So what we now see emerge is an embryonic social enterprise model based upon a mutually shared circular economy.

GoldKatcha – part of the PeaceGold mercury free system of production

The PeaceGold Partnership

decolonising gold through shared ownership and a circular economy.

One of our unique distinctive’s is the creation of a circular economy in gold. For too long small-scale miners have been the victims of the resource curse and and at the bottom of the wealth distribution model. Small miners get exploited at every turn. To break away from the entrenched criminal and/or (neo-)colonial model that has dominated the gold markets of the world since the 15 century, we have started our migration from a non-profit model of community engagement, to a for-profit social enterprise and the development of a circular economy.

Over the last 18-months we have begun to crystallise the PeaceGold community learning into a contextual business model. We want everyone to have a stake in the building of peace through gold. So we have created a business model and supply chain, whose roots are in the local community context and branches extending out to the worldwide ethical jewellery movement.

Four key relationships in our Social Enterprise Model.

Civil Society Peace Building Organisation – Centre for Resolution Conflict (CRC).

PeaceGold grew out of a specific felt need identified by the Centre for Resolution Conflicts  The need to continue the demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants, many of whom struggled for worthwhile work. Like many people in Ituri they had experience in artisanal gold digging. CRC plays an essential role in PeaceGold. They work alongside the COOP’s and wider communities bringing the vital support, encouragement and psychosocial counselling needed for individuals and communities to deal with the historic & daily traumas that exist. They also provide vital expertise in assisting the COOP’s achieve the organisational, legal and community development objectives.

Nationally registered Gold Mining COOP’s.

PeaceGold COOPs will have been involved with the PeaceGold programme and will have demonstrated that they meet the requirements to be called PeaceGold partners (see criteria below). They are solely owned by their members and will be principle beneficiaries of the PeaceGold CIC and will share a 50% stake in the export platform with other subscribing PeaceGold Coop’s.

Criteria for becoming a PeaceGold affiliated COOP.

  • ASMO’s in Africa especially in conflict affected areas in and around the Great Lakes Region
  • Craft Code process started and agreement to work within our MEL system
  • National Accreditation achieved
  • Bank Account (USD) open
  • Mercury Free production system in process (achieved end of year 1)
  • Social Fund Committee and commitment to 1% to community development.
  • Permission from concession holder to operate.

PeaceGold Congo.

The ownership of PeaceGold Congo will be a 50/50 structure between the CIC and the PeaceGold Cooperative participants (subject to legal review). PeaceGold Congo will hold two licenses.

i) Export/Comptoir license in Congo.

This is our dedicated export platform. It will serve as the vehicle through which we purchase gold directly from COOP members, ensure all the legal due diligence is undertaken to comply with Congolese & ICGLR rules for exporting gold, pay national and provincial taxes and duties and provide safe storage, aggregation and smelting facilities. Our Comptoir license means we can engage local ASMG COOPs and procure the gold production and work with them on improving social & economic performance in line with our PeaceGold formalisation replication process.

ii) Gold concession in partnership with Sokimo.

Alongside the establishment of our own dedicated export platform, we will establish a permanent gold mining concession with SOKIMO. This will enable us to control and manage our own gold production. The other function of our working ‘petite mine’ will be to create a best in class, small mine operation through which we can train other cooperatives in how to be a PeaceGold associated cooperative and maximise their mining performance.

A Community Interest Company (CIC) registered in the UK.

A CIC is our social enterprise company that sets aside a percentage of its profitability to specific community interest groups. In our case it is supporting ASM COOP’s to formalise and peace building organisations working in conflict resolution. The PeaceGold CIC will be responsible for sales & marketing, brand asset management, monitoring and evaluation (MEL), financial control and support throughout the group structure, customer and partner jeweller service and media relations.

 To conclude – The Invitation.

We are at the beginning of our journey with PeaceGold, a genuine adventure in the dynamic relationship between artisanal miners and jewellers. A relationship I have come to recognise as full of potential and extraordinary creativity. I invite you to support our social enterprise with a donation towards our set up costs. if you are an ethical jeweller, I invite you to become an early adopter member that will give you first access to the gold when it comes to market and to use the brand, marketing and media suite which will be available at launch.

To support us please visit our crowd funding webpage at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/peacegold


Over the course of the next few months I will be blogging from here on our progress and highlighting in more depth the benefits that PeaceGold will be able to deliver.