VICTORIA, Bc., July 20, 2021 - Canadian not-for-profit organization and artisanal gold mining specialist, the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC), non-governmental organization RESOLVE, and the Responsible Business Alliance’s (RBA) Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), which includes corporate partners Ford Motor Company, ABB, CISCO, and local gold trading social enterprise AG SARL, are pleased to announce their new partnership – Scalable Trade in Artisanal Gold (STAG) in Burkina Faso. The region has emerged as a key resource for critical metals like gold that have become essential in electronics and electrical components.
Funded by the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM), STAG is a three-year project focused on scaling up legal trade in artisanal gold. The project will connect upstream field sites to the midstream through the Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP) and the CRAFT Code and will engage and educate downstream buyers through its Progressive Due Diligence Lab. “Engage to Improve” is both the motto of the project and the strategy that it is using to improve Burkina Faso’s artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector.
Burkina Faso is the fourth largest industrial gold producer in Africa and it has an equally large and thriving artisanal gold mining sector. The expansion of Burkina Faso’s industrial and artisanal mining sector in recent years has led to a dramatic shift in the country’s economy, which presents both opportunities and challenges, including environmental and human rights concerns. Artisanal gold mining (orpaillage) is a major source of livelihood for over 700,000 traditional Burkinabé gold miners or ‘orpailleurs’ as they are known locally, with an additional 2 million people engaged in supportive services in the sector. A number of areas within Burkina Faso are also identified as conflict-affected and high-risk areas (CAHRAs) on the European Union CAHRAs list. As part of the STAG project, partners will be working to foster and support responsible mineral sourcing from Burkina Faso.
Traditional Burkinabé gold traders operate informally and are therefore disconnected from international markets. In the current context, miners and their communities remain economically vulnerable, impoverished, and unable to capture the full value and development opportunity of their mineral wealth.
While there is significant recognition of the importance of the artisanal gold sector as a means to support community development, refiners and downstream companies remain challenged to find ways to engage with the sector, including identifying legitimate artisanal gold sources, conducting due diligence and ongoing assurance, and managing reputational risk. Currently, this means that responsible buyers and other formal markets are not engaging with artisanal producers.
The new AGC-RESOLVE-RMI project will create a commercially viable and sustainable sourcing system to scale-up trade in responsibly produced artisanal gold. This will immediately benefit thousands of artisanal gold miners by paying them and their communities more for their gold. By formalizing and professionalizing artisanal mining, STAG will enable these gold supply chains to become more resilient and fair, ensuring that the project’s benefits will also grow in the long term. To accomplish this, the project will create and implement a customized Burkinabé version of the CRAFT sourcing code for artisanal gold and will seek formal recognition by the Responsible Minerals Initiative for implementation of the upstream assurance mechanism for the ASM gold in this context.
As Dr. Kevin Telmer, Executive Director of the AGC explains: “At 20% of global gold production and with the potential to have a very low environmental footprint and huge positive impacts on community development, artisanal gold mining needs to take its proper place as a responsible producer of gold and supporter of community development.” He is fond of boiling the overall assistance strategy down to a simple dictum: “buy their gold!”.
Jennifer Peyser, Director of the Ethical Resource Program at RESOLVE, says, “After over a decade of artisanal gold sourcing pilots, the risks and challenges are well described. It’s time to design practical solutions for inclusive, collaborative, and progressive due diligence. We look forward to convening a tripartite community of practice in the Progressive Due Diligence Lab to design the models and tools to put these principles into practice, at scale.”
Marianna Smirnova, Director of Standards and Assurance at the RBA’s Responsible Minerals Initiative says, “Working together, we are evolving business practices to support responsible mineral production and sourcing globally, including from conflict-affected and high-risk areas, providing companies with tools and resources that improve regulatory compliance, align with international standards, and support industry and stakeholder expectations. This effort aims to create a scalable replicable pipeline of responsible artisanal gold to refiners conformant to the RMI’s standards and others also aligned with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance.”
The project has now begun implementation and expects to engage with roughly 6,000 miners from various gold mining communities in Burkina Faso. The Government of Burkina Faso is highly supportive of the project and hopes that it will assist in Burkina’s goal of improving and professionalizing its entire gold sector including establishing traceable artisanal gold supply chains that connect its communities to formal gold markets and jewelers.
Founded in 2008 by members of the Responsible Business Alliance, the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) has grown into one of the most utilized and respected resources for companies from a range of industries addressing responsible mineral sourcing issues in their supply chains. More than 400 companies and associations from over 20 industries participate in the RMI today, and regularly collaborate with other programs and initiatives in this area. The RMI’s flagship Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP) offers companies and their suppliers an independent, third-party audit that determines which processors, smelters and refiners can be verified as having systems in place to responsibly source minerals in line with current global standards, including the OECD, and regulatory requirements, such as the U.S. Dodd Frank Act section 1502 and the EU Responsible Minerals Regulation. The RMI also develops platforms, databases, templates, tools, produces white papers and guidance documents on responsible mineral sourcing. For more information, visit http://www.responsiblemineralsinitiative.org.
Communications Officer – Project Liaison, AGC