Gold was long regarded as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Nowadays, gold plays an important role especially in our smartphones and electrical products, which is why the demand for this finite precious metal is constantly increasing. Modern gold mining, however, is anything but glamorous: it violates human rights, produces lasting environmental damage and social problems for the local population.We talked to the founder about the possibilities of fair mining of gold and the new possibilities to recycle the finite raw material efficiently. Guya's jewellery brand Vieri combines innovation, responsible action and traditional craftsmanship with timeless design - with the vision to make the world a more beautiful and, above all, a better place through fair jewellery production.
GUYA, SINCE 2013 YOU HAVE BEEN CREATING JEWELLERY IN WHICH YOU USE ONLY FAIR TRADE OR RECYCLED GOLD. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA? WAS THERE A KEY MOMENT FOR YOU? After I made a trip to gold mines in Peru in 2012, it was clear to me that I wanted to make a difference. What I experienced there moved me a lot. Until then I only knew the glamorous world of jewellery. To see how the raw material gold is mined, under what conditions people (worldwide there are estimated 25-30 million people working in the Small Scale Mining sector) mine gold, handle toxic substances like mercury unprotected, are untrained, mostly work illegally or informally and how nature is affected, has really shaken my view of the world. It quickly became clear that I did not want to accept this. Since I don't really believe in the concept of donations and Charity, I knew that I could only change something if I could show that things could be different. With this vision I founded VIERI Fine Jewelry in 2015.
NEXT TO YOUR JEWELRY COMPANY, YOU FOUNDED THE EARTHBEAT FOUNDATION TO CREATE AN INCOME ALTERNATIVE AND A BETTER FUTURE FOR THE MINERS. HOW BAD ARE THE EFFECTS OF CONVENTIONAL GOLD MINING ON PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT?Yes, I set up the foundation right after my trip to Peru. Originally to create awareness for the topic and to work on solutions. Meanwhile we are working together with the gold prospecting communities on alternative sources of income, so that you can get away from gold prospecting in the long run and build something sustainable for yourself.Conventional gold construction usually takes place illegally or informally. The people are either driven by the hope of fast money or are lured into the mine under false facts. They are not trained, have hardly any equipment and are paid very poorly. In addition, they are on their own. There is no orphan's pension or loss of work or even health insurance. Furthermore, they mainly use mercury and cyanide to separate the gold from the rock. This is highly toxic for humans, but also for the environment if the gold is washed in the rivers and the mercury is also disposed of in the groundwater. Mines also leave lunar landscapes and craters behind. Often, immense deforestation goes hand in hand with gold mining.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FAIR AND CONVENTIONAL GOLD MINING? Fair gold mining is usually based on certifications such as Fairtrade or Fairmined. These are the best known. There are requirements such as occupational safety, training, and reduction or safe handling of mercury. Of course, child labour is also prohibited. The gold is also sold with a premium, which the workers have to reinvest.
ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES TO CLASSIC GOLD MINING? Since fair mining also intervenes massively in nature and the approaches, as much as they mean an improvement, are difficult to scale, I do not see them as a long-term solution - especially if we look at the current situation on climate change but also at human rights violations. The issue of gold mining is very complex and not really transparent. If we want to work on long-term solutions, we have to look at our consumption. For me, the best alternative to traditional gold mining and in many other industries is the recycling of raw materials. Gold is actually particularly good for this because it can be 100% recycled and there is no loss in quality.
HOW CAN GOLD BE RECYCLED?Mechanical processing involves shredding, grinding and sieving the material to obtain a homogeneous structure. The pyrolysis process consists of a combination of incineration of the material at high temperatures and subsequent melting. In the wet chemical or digestion process, the gold is first dissolved with a hydrochloric and nitric acid mixture (aqua regia), then reduced with sulphur dioxide and finally isolated by electrolysis.
The process is of course associated with an immense amount of energy, so that we cannot of course speak of a CO2 neutral process. But here, too, there are already research approaches on how this can be made more environmentally friendly in the future. Nevertheless, the alternative to conventional gold mining is far better for nature and man.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE WITH WORLD GOLD DAY? The first step is to show consumers that we all have to deal with gold every day through the use of mobile phones, trays and laptops. So everyone can become a gold revolutionary by a) paying attention to his consumption and not needing a new mobile phone every 11 months b) returning phones to the cycle that he no longer uses c) returning mobile phones that are broken and can no longer be repaired for recycling.In the long run, World Gold Day will see the creation of educational initiatives and a wide range of solutions. But the topic should above all be on the agenda - in such a way that it is fun and does not become another " you are not allowed to anymore". We are already working on some great collection campaigns.More about that soon.
YOUR LATEST COLLECTION IS MADE EXCLUSIVELY FROM RECYCLED GOLD OBTAINED FROM OLD CELL PHONES. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS IDEA? After one of my lectures I heard about a company from Holland that has made it their business to take up the topic of electronic waste in Africa. Unfortunately, a lot of our e-waste is still sold illegally to Africa or Asia, where it is recycled or sold cheaply under conditions that are harmful to health and the environment.Closing the loop creates incentives to collect this very waste electrical and electronic equipment. These are then purchased and professionally recycled. The raw materials are then returned to the cycle. I was so enthusiastic about it that I absolutely wanted to be a part of it. So we bought the gold from a charge mobile phones that were collected in Cameroon and show that electronic scrap or recycling and luxury can go hand in hand without any problems. 25% of the profit from the collection is also returned, so that even more of these collection campaigns can be financed in African countries.
WHAT IS THE POTENTIAL OF RECYCLING GOLD FROM ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES? You need about 40 mobile phones to produce a gold ring. This means that 40 mobile phones contain approx. 1 gram of gold. In order to obtain this gram from conventional mining, 1 ton of rock has to be moved and processed. The potential is therefore very great and can be a solution to obtain raw materials in the long term, not just from mining activities. In Germany a lot of recycled gold is already used, because it makes economic sense to recover and use a raw material. However, there is still not enough to meet the demand. That's why we want to attract attention.Of course it is important to think politically, if we procure more and more raw materials from recycling, we must of course at the same time look at what is going on with the communities, which nevertheless - even if vry badly - make a living from it. That is why we invest in alternative sources of income and make sure that local people find new and sustainable sources of income in the long term.This is the only way to change the system sustainably.
WHERE CAN I DROP OFF MY OLD PHONE FOR RECYCLING? From 15.11 onwards you can check all collection points and possibilities in Germany at: HERE and actively participate.
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