Toby’s trip to Oro Verde mines in Colombia’s Choco Bioregion

July 5, 2010 8:00 pm

Carlos_and_Clidio_building_terraceI don’t recall being this excited since I was a 10-year-old boy, living in the hills near Nainital, India with my family, anticipating a late-night stakeout for a marauding tiger prowling on the farm of a family friend.

Today, I leave for my first-ever visit to South America and the extraordinarily biologically diverse Choco region of Colombia. But the thrill this time isn’t from the anticipation of witnessing exotic wildlife and fascinating flora – this time I’m tingling from the expectation of being on the brink of a new era of awareness and responsibility in the world. The purpose of my visit to Colombia is to meet the gold miners in the Choco region who are committed to sustainable mining practices. These miners are actively preserving and restoring the exquisite land on which their future depends. They are Afro-Colombian descendants of the Conquistador’s slaves who have witnessed their mineral-rich lands pillaged by mechanized mercenary mining interests which have taken the profits of their invasion and left behind a land pocked by savage gashes and a people more impoverished than before.

Americo_Scooping_StonesSpecifically, I will be visiting the Oro Verde miners, a widely dispersed but interconnected group of artisanal miners who extract the gold and platinum while complying with strict ecological standards. They work to preserve the Chocó Bioregion, one of the world’s richest biodiversity reservoirs, by fostering sustainable use of natural resources and by following certified responsible mining practices. More than 700 artisan miners in the region are now following these social and environmental criteria.

Transferring_stonesThe partnership, consisting of a national NGO and three grassroots organizations, has created the basis for the world’s first local certification program for precious metals mining and has ignited a worldwide fair-trade movement around responsible small-scale mining.

The responsibly extracted gold and platinum is then sold under the Oro Verde brand name to socially responsible designers and jewelers in green and fair trade markets, mainly in Europe and North America.

This is a big deal; it’s the first time in the history of the world that one can know specifically where their gold has originated, know the community from which it has come and know that at every step of the way the biosphere and the people affected are being cared for and empowered.

Choco_GirlsAt TOBY POMEROY we are excited and privileged to be using Oro Verde gold for a line of bridal jewelry we are now offering. While we have been pioneers in encouraging the use of reclaimed gold to counteract the negative impacts of traditional mining practices, we are particularly thrilled to be offering fair trade, traceable gold with a nominal premium added so that the miners can be well-paid, enhancing their quality of life and afforded an opportunity to increase their stewardship of their remarkable environment.

This trip will help me understand the region, people, and the process where the gold I use for the line will come from – it is sure to be quite an experience. I’ll be writing more as my Oro Verde journey unfolds! More soon…