Peru is one of the largest gold producers in the world and, after Brazil, encompasses the largest portion of the Amazon.[1] Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), which accounts for about a quarter of the world’s gold, is resulting in record deforestation and mercury pollution in the Peruvian rainforest, threatening the health of local communities while contributing to climate change. Nonetheless, gold mining remains an important economic activity in this region where some 30,000 depend on it. Transforming ASGM into a safe, viable livelihood is critical to protecting people and the planet.


A new project, Green Mining, is doing just that. Implemented by international non-profit Pure Earth and the Alliance for Responsible Mining and supported by the global jewelry company Brilliant Earth, this project aims to create the first mercury-free gold supply chain from the Peruvian Amazon. Green Mining is also restoring Amazon rainforest degraded by gold mining.

The project is training miners on and transitioning them to mercury-free techniques, helping miners rehabilitate mining-damaged land through reforestation, and guiding them through the process of becoming Fairmined certified and producing Fairmined ecological gold. More than 50 miners of the Association of Artisanal Miners Tauro Fátima (AMATAF), located in the Tambopata region of Madre de Dios, are part of this initiative and are on their way to becoming a benchmark for responsible mining in the area. The best practices they learn will help them fulfill the strict requirements of the Fairmined Standard, created by the Alliance for Responsible Mining. They will then be able to sell their gold to international markets for a fair price, creating the first supply chain of mercury-free gold from the Peruvian Amazon.

“As a proud Fairmined licensed brand, Brilliant Earth is excited to create a direct connection between our contributions to Pure Earth’s programs and our Fairmined products. Through this Fairmined ecological certification, we will be able to facilitate AMATAF’s direct access to Brilliant Earth customers and send a clear message that responsible mining investments and social and environmental protections are important to everyone.”

Beth Gerstein, CEO of Brilliant Earth.

“Madre de Dios is one of the most convulsed regions in Latin America in terms of conflicts and environmental pollution due to artisanal and small-scale mining. These four mining projects associated with AMATAF are aiming for Fairmined certification and are demonstrating that a formal and traceable path for gold can be conceived in the heart of the Amazon. This will have a high impact because it would allow us to fill gaps in knowledge and promote best practices to be observed in the region of Madre de Dios on a large scale, with formal and legitimate value chains for the miners themselves and other actors involved.”

Victor Pachas, Alliance for Responsible Mining Regional Manager for Peru and Bolivia.

“We believe the jewelry industry holds the key. For the past 20 years, Pure Earth has worked to reduce the global mercury threat by training miners worldwide to go mercury-free, but our efforts can only scale up and be sustainable if responsible jewelers step in to help support, raise awareness and create demand for mercury-free gold mining. This will encourage more miners to change the way they mine and fuel the transformation of both the gold mining and the jewelry industry.”

Pure Earth President Richard Fuller

Restoring the Peruvian Rainforest

To date, Pure Earth has helped miners restore about 10 hectares of rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon. Seedlings in the latest reforestation plots have had a survival rate that is rated “excellent” in the field. This Green Mining project will add more than 3 hectares. These models of reforesting mined-out rainforest are the first in the Amazon and serve as examples for other miners in the region.

Protecting and restoring the Amazon rainforest is crucial. This area is home to more species of plants and animals than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet, including at least 40,000 species of plants, 2.5 million species of insects, 2,200 species of fish, and 427 species of mammals. One in five of all bird species lives in the Amazon rainforest. Polluted and damaged rainforest exacerbates climate change worldwide.

Mercury-free gold mining

In the last 20 years, more than 3,000 thousand tons of mercury have been released into the Peruvian Amazon, which is around 185 tons per year (WWF).

The Green Mining project promotes the implementation of new mercury-free technologies, mitigating the negative impacts that this toxin has on the environment and the health of people everywhere.

Pure Earth is the only organization training miners in both reforestation and mercury-free techniques in the Peruvian Amazon. Since 2015, Pure Earth has been working in Madre de Dios as part of its Global Mercury Project. Pure Earth promotes an artisanal and small-scale mining model in the Peruvian Amazon that not only encompasses more environmentally responsible practices but also improves the living conditions of the local population. Through the approach of responsible gold buyers, the efforts of the miners can be rewarded and recognized. Pure Earth works with artisanal and small-scale gold miners globally to reduce the use of mercury.

Fairmined Certified Gold: gold to be proud of

The Fairmined Standard, created by the Alliance for Responsible Mining, certifies best mining practices. Small-scale mining organizations must meet strict requirements to achieve this certification and sell their gold to international markets at a fair price.

The Green Mining project is helping AMATAF miners meet these requirements and access the benefits of selling certified organic gold (gold extracted without chemicals), such as receiving an economic incentive for each kilogram of gold sold.


The Jewelry Industry’s Role in Solving this Global Health Issue

Companies in the gold industry like Brilliant Earth have an important role to play: support and source responsibly produced gold, thereby recognizing the efforts of artisanal and small-scale miners who conduct responsible mining in the Peruvian Amazon, preserving this important livelihood.

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