By Lígia Carvalho Abreu (2015)


                                                  Fairmined Tree. And Homage to the Journey of Chopard. Illustration made by Catarina Pinto and Lígia Carvalho Abreu

Fairmined gold, Fairmined silver, conflict free diamonds and responsible mining are increasingly common concepts adopted by jewellery and watch companies to promote an ethical culture in the extraction, trade and consumption of precious metals and gemstones.

However, each year human rights organisations, journalists and film makers, report the banality of evil that still surrounds precious metals, gemstone mining and trade which occurs in certain regions of the world.

In a century where human dignity is the core principle of the rule of law, some countries, whose Constitutions call for the respect of human dignity, are not able to eradicate from the mining field: child labour, torture, repression, sexual abuse, exploitation of workers, poverty, slavery, impunity, not to mention environmental degradation and lack of the essential needs of health. Smuggling and corruption are associated with an ongoing trade of diamonds and other precious stones between neighbouring countries. This hides the real origin of these precious stones, when they are exported to the international legitimate market and beneficiaries behind this trade (rebels or oppressive and dictatorial governments).

 This situation is the antithesis of human dignity, because:

In the kingdom of ends, everything has either a price or a dignity. What has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; what, on the other hand, is above all price and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity[i].


How can a jewellery company contribute to the respect of human dignity in the mining sector and other associated activities?

Chopard’s pair of leaf shaped earrings made from fairmined white gold from artisanal mines in South America and adorned with 72 marquise cut diamonds from conflict free areas. Photo: Courtesy of Chopard

One of the world’s leading jewellery and watch companies making a difference with its Journey to sustainable and ethical luxury through the improvement of its corporate social responsibility is the Swiss-based company: Chopard. 

The company is benefitting from an activity which depends on the work and actions of different types of actors. Consequently, it has a duty, not only to its shareholders but also to the stakeholders (employees, labour unions, mining communities and consumers) to adopt policies that reflect on the respect of fundamental rights.

Chopard adopts a policy of sustainable business development[ii]. This policy is based on the traceability of raw materials, from the initial stage of mining towards retail, with the partnership of non - governmental organisations. The respect of existing certification processes of good business practices for these raw materials assures that they are obtained with the strict respect of fundamental rights for the mining workers and communities, including the protection of the environment. In other words they assure that they are Fairmined and Fairtraded.

In 2013, Chopard with the support of Eco-Age, “a brand consultancy that enables businesses to achieve growth by adding value through sustainability”[iii], launched The Green Carpet Collection, which, for example, includes a pair of leaf shaped earrings made from Fairmined white gold from artisanal mines in South America and adorned with 72 marquise cut diamonds from conflict free areas.

 In 2014, Chopard created the first world Fairmined gold watch, the L.U.C. Tourbillon Qualité Fleurier and also launched the first Palm d’Or made from Fairmined gold for the 67º Cannes Film Festival. 

                   Photo: Courtesy of Chopard 

     Although these examples represent a tiny fraction of Chopard’s designs, they are the start of a more effective corporate social responsibility towards the respect of human dignity, essential to sustainable luxury.

 This is possible because the company is open to working with partners whose main goal is sustainable development: Eco-Age and the non-governmental organisation, Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM)[iv].

Eco-Age helps Chopard to identify artisanal and small scale miner organisations (ASMOs), in Peru and Colombia, which meet the Fairmined and Fairtrade Standards of ARM[v]. Those ASMOs are formed by:

Self-employed miners, family units, groups of self-employed miners, other community-based miners and organisations like mineral selectors, micro-enterprises belonging to the family economy, small enterprises, as well as all types of workers (including casual or migrant workers) [vi].


The ASMOs are committed to applying the Fairmined Standard System (herein after referred to as the Standard) in order to promote sustainable development in the mining communities by collaborating with the authorities and other community groups.

The accomplishment of the Standard and its implied objectives are related to the respect of several national and international legal instruments. For instance, the fundamental rights of national Constitutions: children rights, gender equity, non-discrimination, a right to a living wage (in line with or exceeding national laws, which can guarantee to the workers and their families a decent standard of living, in the context of a stable labour contract, with the payment of social contributions, and consequently social benefits); furthermore, a right to holidays, a right to a health and safety working environment or freedom of association. And international legal instruments: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and The International Labour Law Organisation Conventions[vii].

The ASMO or its miners must have or are granted, by law or Constitution, land rights or mining rights over the areas included in the Fairmined System of Production. In addition, when possible, they must be the owners of domestic or industrial mineral processing facilities. This guarantees that mining in these areas are not linked to criminal groups.

Although the Standards prohibit the supply of precious metals from the artisanal and small scale miners who support non-state armed groups, it is possible to create programmes based on the application of international humanitarian law. This is to improve the work and living conditions of the artisanal and small scale miners, their families and communities from conflict-affected and high risk areas who are victims of armed groups.   

The Standard also highlights environmental concerns prohibiting mining activities in environmentally sensitive areas. An ASMO must demonstrate that it has “been working in the area for more than 10 years under the supervision of a competent environmental authority, or that their activity can co-exist with the protection objectives, and if they have mining rights and environmental permits approved”[viii].

   Thus, the gold obtained from those ASMOs is certified as Fairmined gold[ix] or as Fairmined ecological gold[x], because it is extracted in line with a system that respects human rights. The respect of those human rights requirements is accomplished by ASMOs through an internal control system from initially tracking down precious metals, followed by extraction and then the final sale. In this context, it is necessary to comply with a number of requirements: the registration of all miners working in the mining area controlled by the ASMO; the training and educational campaigns which improve safe working conditions and environmental management; the award of an additional amount of money – the Fairmined premium and the Fairmined ecological premium[xi] - towards a fair payment of the precious metals to miners in the Fairmined production system, which can also be used to support the ASMO in order to accomplish the objectives of its Development Plan. These objectives are: the creation of child care facilities, education and health programmes, as well as infrastructures or forest restoration. Another requirement is a complete documental and/or physical traceability of the precious metals, from its first buyer to final retail.  This aims to guarantee that an exact quantity of precious metals was mined according to the ARM Standard “by one or more artisanal and small-scale mining organisations, and that the purchase of gold provides immediate benefits to this/these certified organisation(s)”[xii].  

The compliance with the Standard is audited. ARM is also helping to improve the capacity of the miners’ negotiation within the governmental authorities for better national labour laws and their capability for collective bargaining to affirm their fundamental rights. 



  Fairmined Jewellery designed by Chopard. Photo: Courtesy of Chopard          

With regards to diamonds and other gemstones, Chopard relies on the Kimberley Process of Certification Scheme for Diamonds (herein after referred to as the Kimberley Process), on the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and on the IGC Group, as a guarantee that the precious stones used in its designs are not from areas affected by conflicts.   

In spite of using diamonds from the IGC Group, a company which is, like Chopard, a certified member of the RJC and is committed to respecting “ethical, social and environmental standards within the diamond and jewellery industry”[xiii], Chopard must continue to maintain control of their gemstones, acting in close partnership with human rights ONGs because, unfortunately, the certification systems under the RJC and the Kimberley Process are not a hundred per cent guarantee that precious stones are coming from regions which, even without civil wars, respect the fundamental rights of the mining communities.      

Effectively, the Kimberley Process was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council and created in 2003 to be:

A joint government, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds - rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments[xiv]


As an import-export scheme to certify the origin of rough diamonds, the Kimberley Process imposes on member countries the adoption of a national legislation, including the creation of institutions needed, to implement an efficient control system applied to the import and export of rough diamonds. Member Countries should not certify diamonds from conflict areas. Shipments of rough diamonds must be:

Transported in a tamper-resistant container; accompanied by a government-validated Kimberley Process Certificate; each certificate must be resistant to forgery, uniquely numbered and describe the shipment’s contents; the shipment can only be exported to another Kimberley Process participant country. It is illegal for uncertified shipments of rough diamonds to either be imported or exported by a Kimberley Process participant country. Failure to comply with these procedures can lead to confiscation or rejection of parcels and/or criminal sanctions.[xv]


Furthermore, non-governmental organisations, the diamond industry (African Diamonds Producers Association (ADPA), the Civil Society Coalition, the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) and the World Diamond Council (WDC)) hold observer status. Under the Kimberley Process, the diamond industry, represented by the WDC, has agreed just like the member countries, to set up a system of warranties whereby invoices accompany the diamonds certified as conflict free, containing the following statement:

The diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations Resolutions. The undersigned hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provider by the supplier of these diamonds[xvi].   


This system of warranties is annually audited by the company’s own auditors who also have to keep records of their customer warranties including their own system of warranty statements from their diamond suppliers, in order to prove to governmental authorities that they apply the Kimberley Process requirements.  

However, if in the past diamonds from countries with internal conflicts were banned from the legal international supply chain, then at times of peace, those bans were lifted despite evident reports of human rights violations in mining regions, sometimes with the connivance of governmental authorities or to fund corrupt and dictatorial governments.

The Kimberley Process should not only be concerned with diamonds from areas controlled by rebel armed forces and in war. Some Kimberley Process member countries are conflict free zones, but they are not able to prevent unsafe and unfair labour practices, child labour or violations of physical and psychological integrity committed in mining areas.

Moreover the Kimberley Process only imposes minimum requirements on member countries. Some of them encounter difficulties in implementing those requirements and do not even go further than what this process imposes. For political and economic reasons, they are not able to control the traceability of all diamonds from their mining origin, especially individual diamonds and other gemstones.  In this case it is not difficult to smuggle precious stones from a country in which mining activities suffer brutality to neighbouring countries that are more peaceful.  As a consequence, those diamonds can reach the international market with a false Kimberley Process certification.

In spite of the improvements made by the RJC with the 2013 code of practices[xvii] for a responsible supply chain of precious metals and stones, from mining to retail, which audits members companies’ compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification and also standards related to labour rights and environmental impact, it is important to rigorously and impartially audit all the operations involved.


                    March 2015, a new gold mine in Bolivia in which Chopard is applying its fairmined gold program Photo: Courtesy of Chopard    

Thus Chopard, as member of RJC, should keep on extending its programmes to help AMSOs to implement a human rights’ culture, working closely with ONGs and other partners committed to sustainable development, such as Eco-Age. This is to control the operations involved in the achievement of precious metals and stones. It is important that Chopard continues to support mining cooperatives, like it does with Coodmilla cooperative, located in Narinõ (Colombia), or in Bolivia by: promoting fair benefit sharing of profits gained from the precious metals and stones, introducing workshops on safety and environmental protection practices as well as participating in areas of debate where workers, representatives of trade unions, NGOs, the government and companies can reach a mutual agreement for a more stable and humanised livelihood of the mining communities.         

This direct engagement and support by the company, within the context of an equal partnership, can help governments to fight against illegal mining and trade where precious metals are concerned. Thus, Governments can collect revenue from taxes applied to these activities which they should utilise in social infrastructures to improve human development. 








[i] Immanuel Kant. The Metaphysics of Morals. Translated and edited by Mary J. Gregor. Cambridge University Press: 1998, p. 42. 

[ii] The principles of the Chopard corporate social responsibility available at the official website of the company:

[iv] Alliance for Responsible Mining,

[v] Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, including Associated Precious Metals,

[vi] Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, including Associated Precious Metals, p. 7,

[vii] Such as: Convention nº 169 of the International Labour Law Organization (ILO) concerning the rights of indigenous and tribal people, in order to respect indigenous territories and their rights to a fair benefit sharing from the mining operations; ILO Convention nº 155 concerning occupational health and safety and the working environment; the ILO Convention nº 176 concerning Health and Safety in Mines; the ILO Convention nº 100 about an equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value; ILO Convention nº 29 and 105 regarding abolition of forced and compulsory  labour;  elimination of child labour and by consequence, the respect of ILO Convention nº 138 concerning minimum age for admission to employment,  ILO Convention nº 182 of the worst form of Child Labour (including mining work and related activities that can damage the health, safety  and well-being of the children), the Convention on the Rights of the Child;  the ILO Convention nº 111 concerning non-discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, which rejects “any distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national ascendancy or social origin that alters equal opportunity or treatment in employment and occupation” (article 1º of) ILO Convention nº 111); ILO Convention nº 87 concerning freedom of association and protection of the right to organise and Conventions nº 98 and 154 concerning the application of principles for the right to organise and bargain collectively.

[viii] Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small-scale Mining, including Associated Precious Metals, p. 14,

[ix] Fairmined Gold is “the pure chemical element “gold” (Au) contained in the mineral or in form of different alloys and different purity in metals produced by an ASMO in compliance with the requirements of the Standard”, Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, including Associated Precious Metals, p.13,

[x]Fairmined Ecological Gold is the “fairmined gold that has been produced by an ASMO in compliance with the additional requirements for Ecological Gold. (…) If the System of Production or its miners post-processes the tailings with cyanide or mercury (which means that the System of Production uses mercury or cyanide), even the purely gravimetrically recovered fraction is not certifiable as “ecologic”. In this case the entire gold is certifiable as Fairmined, but not “ecologic””. Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, including Associated Precious Metals, pp. 13 and  30, 

[xi] The Fairmined Ecological Premium was established “in order to promote progressive elimination in the use of mercury and cyanide”. It is a compensation associated with the respect of environmental practices, such as ecosystems restoration. It can also take into account “economic losses due to lower gold recovery of the applied mercury-free and cyanide-free processing techniques, as well as less intensive mining activity”. Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, including Associated Precious Metals, p.30, 

[xii] Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, including Associated Precious Metals, p. 24,

[xiii] IGCGroup,

[xiv] Kimberley Process Certification Scheme,

[xv] Kimberley Process Requirements, Diamond,

[xvi] System of Warranties, Diamond,

[xvii] RJC Code of practices,