Doris Cuatin is a miner with the Cooperativa Coodmilla LTDA, a mining cooperative in the municipality of La Llanada, Nariño, Colombia, that has been certified by the Fairmined Standard for two years, and is currently undergoing recertification.
Doris, 48, is a member of this cooperative and has a seat in its board of directors. She has been working in small-scale mining for about 16 years, and this trade runs in her family. “I have uncles and cousins working in mining; my father worked in it as well, and so did my grandparents. This trade has been passed on from generation to generation.”
“People believe that this is an activity that can only be performed by men, but women can do it too.”
To her, artisanal mining “is the foundation of my life, my home, and the economy of this community; it is our main sustenance.” She explains that, under the Fairmined Standard, miners acquire a responsible training in regard to their work, work issues and environmental matters, and she also says that “we have the privilege of getting the community to participate with the benefits of our work.”
“From the beginning, because of our mining culture, the main challenge was to become aware of the importance of engaging in responsible mining. We then understood our responsibilities, obligations and challenges. Labor contracts, the provision of protection elements to the entire staff and others were a challenge,” but they managed to overcome it, Doris says. She also highlights the benefits obtained thanks to the Fairmined Certification.
“For example, thanks to the certification we managed to get better organized, and gained in safety and stability; we have improved the working conditions, increased our productivity, applied more technology to our work, and this has led our costs to go down. […] You feel satisfied, because the personnel works in a more dignified manner.”
As for environmental issues, Doris tells that she has seen a change in her life; she highlights the training sessions on the subject and says that the cooperative has participated in reforestation efforts and the handling of overburden: “crushers have also been set up and they are at the community’s disposal.” She says that this crushed overburden has, for example, been used to build homes. Thanks to the Fairmined Premium, “socially, we provide assistance to people of old age; aid children and people in situations of vulnerability and help with sidewalks and the construction of homes,” among others.
“We participate in this sector.”
Doris believes that they can use the premium to “do their part” for people in need. “Something that is quite important is that new equipment, slushers and compressors have been bought, as well as self-rescue devices for work teams; these are some of the requirements we have and we are fulfilling our obligations and complying with what is required by the mining authority.”
When asked about Fairmined gold buyers, Doris has only one word: gratitude. “We are very grateful to them, because we are getting an added value by being Fairmined members; we have gotten a lot of help thanks to this, and they are the ones that have valued our work. I just want to tell them to keep helping.”
Lastly, Doris also discussed subjects related to women and gender equality. She says that the cooperative is open to the entire community, and that women are free to come and join. “We are treated as any other member as long as we comply with the rules and regulations.”
“We participate in training sessions, activities, and we are expecting integration and participation programs targeted at women.” This is something that is received with gratitude, since she considers that mining is a significant challenge for women. “People believe that this is an activity that can only be performed by men, but women can do it too. In my case, I did not have any problems to work on it. And I do my best to comply with what is demanded from all of us.”