Jewelry Industry Summit

The Open Forum on Sustainability & Responsible Sourcing in the Jewelry Industry

The Open Forum on Sustainability and Responsible Sourcing in the Jewelry Industry

Filtering by Category: Colored Gemstones

Progress Made on Establishment of Sustainable Mining Model in Bahia, Brazil

In a time of wavering leadership on sustainability and transparency, we can find inspiration in our peers. While hard-earned progress in environmental sustainability and jewelry transparency efforts face challenges at every level, one of the Jewelry Industry Summit community’s own members remains committed to empowering those in need, supporting the Paris Climate Agreement, and pushing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) forward in his own innovative way.

 

Since sharing their plans at the first Jewelry Industry Summit in 2016, Brian and Kendra Cook have continued their efforts to establish a mining model that empowers miners, their families, and the local community through the Bahia Golden Rutilated Quartz Sustainable Mine to Market Model.

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Located in the meeting place of three extraordinarily unique biomes- Remedios, Novo Horizonte, and Bahia–this Brazilian Bahia Mine region exists in one of the world’s most exceptionally diverse natural environments. Being very rural, this ASM community depends almost entirely on extracting the mineral resources for income — affecting nearly 15,000 people in the region.

 

It is here that the Cooks and their team seek to implement a mining model that employs natural capital resources as the foundation for sustainable economic development, environmental stewardship, and community security for the village population of 500 people.

 

“The goal is to legalize, not marginalize,” says Brian, who has a long and personal history with the Chapada Diamantina region. The comprehensive plan to provide long-term sustainability includes legalizing areas for mining and miners themselves, establishing an on-site processing and lapidary school, and creating a local intensive organic farm as a key component in educating long term land and food stewardship. “This will be generational, not just the next five years,” Cook says.

A women gathers stones at the periphery of the mining, and offers for sale. This is the low grade material ideal to begin the processing and lapidary school to give her the opportunity to add value to her natural mineral capital.

A women gathers stones at the periphery of the mining, and offers for sale. This is the low grade material ideal to begin the processing and lapidary school to give her the opportunity to add value to her natural mineral capital.

 

Through setting up a lapidary school, the Cooks intend to provide training for cutting and polishing, adding value to the stones by cutting at the source. This school will provide opportunities to learn processing and cutting skills for the local community, help to maximize the quality and value of the materials being traded, add economic benefit. The Cooks seek to encourage a diverse approach to the area’s economic development beyond just mining, including a regenerative model organic farm, teaching conservation of natural assets, and identifying potential endemic plants to help sustain alternative revenue streams to the area.

 

“Mining inherently is not sustainable,” says Cook. “When and where possible, we as an industry, could help steer mineral dependent communities towards sustainable activities before the viability of the mines demise.”

The highly sought-after Golden Rutilated Quartz.

The highly sought-after Golden Rutilated Quartz.

 

“All the good things we can do around mining should be done: safety measures, improving mining methods, adding scientific innovation, et cetera- but the parallel part is creating economic sustainability in other areas.”

 

To address the intersectional nature of economic development, the Bahia model will also support the UN SDG’s on food security and the Paris Climate Agreement’s 4% Initiative. Cook will utilize an organic farming method native to the northern region of the state, named Mandala for its innovative design; which operates on solar power and natural irrigation. The organic farm will provide food directly to the mining community and contribute to carbon sequestration.  The farm’s surplus will be sold at the market and revenue will be returned to supporting its upkeep. Furthermore, the organic farm will be open to the local primary school as an educational component on natural resources and food growing practices.

 

The Bahia Model seeks to be a replicable model for other areas of the world as many artisanal mining communities exist in poverty and remain disenfranchised. Brian hopes to reflect the potential of the industry to affect meaningful change:

 

“Shine a light on everyone doing good in this industry. The future needs to go this way. I want our industry to be a leader- be ahead of the game, not catching up.”

 

The Cook team is continuing with the planning of the Bahia Sustainable Mining Model and is seeking support from the Jewelry Industry Summit community in the form of financial management, advising, funding, and marketing. If you are interested in getting involved or helping to support the Bahia Sustainable Mining Model, please contact Brian Cook at bc@naturesgeometry.com.  For additional information or questions, please contact the Jewelry Industry Summit at jewelryindustrysummit@gmail.com.

Robert Weldon, Dr. Ruy Lima, Brian Cook, Naturalis Biodiversity Center of Netherlands' Dr. Hanco Zwaan visit the Pyramid Mine.

Robert Weldon, Dr. Ruy Lima, Brian Cook, Naturalis Biodiversity Center of Netherlands' Dr. Hanco Zwaan visit the Pyramid Mine.


 

Be sure to check back here for updates as the initiative progresses and follow the Bahia Mine on at bahiainitiative.org. Stay up to date with the Jewelry Industry Summit and all its initiatives at jewelryindustrysummit.com and on Facebook.

Step by Step, Myanmar Gem Sector Emerges from Isolation and U.S. Sanctions

Since 2008, after the passage of the Lantos JADE Act, the importation of jade and ruby to the United States has been banned.

With the emergence of desired democratic reforms and the rise to power of the NLD (Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party) in 2015, the U.S. government began easing sanctions to encourage U.S. investments in the Myanmar economy.  The jewelry industry, however, remained frustrated, as jade and ruby remained the sole products subject to ongoing sanctions.  On October 6, 2016, the Obama Administration removed the remaining sanctions, making it once again legal to import ruby and Jade from Myanmar.

After several meetings with the US Department of State, the AGTA brought together a coalition of industry groups, including the Jewelers of America, the American Gem Society, the New York Gem Dealers Association, the Thai Gem and Jewelry Association and a host of individual donors from the U.S. and around the globe, to initiate a fact-finding mission to better understand conditions on the ground in Myanmar.  

On October 3rd, a delegation, which included AGTA President Jeffrey Bilgore, AGTA CEO Doug Hucker, JA President David Bonaparte, Dr. Jim Shigley of the GIA, Tim Haake, Legislative Counsel at Haake and Fetzer. and Erin Murphy and Peter Kucik of the Inle Advisory group, Myanmar business specialists, arrived in Yangon.

During our ten days in Myanmar, which included visits to Yangon (Myanmar’s former capital, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar’s administrative capital which houses Parliament), and the legendary gemstone center of Mogok, meetings were held that encompassed members of the gemstone industry, our current Ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marceil, and his delegation, members of civil society, members of Parliament, and dozens of Ministerial representatives.

The delegation offered suggestions as to how the U.S. community would respond better Myanmar’s gemstone community, centered on the tenets of the AGTA Code of Ethics.  They included separating the gemstones sector from the more problematic jade sector; a ten-year plan for the rehabilitation of mining areas; the development of a tax regimen that encourages compliance rather than avoidance; and the introduction of new laws that honor international labor laws, including child labor.

In Mogok we met with scores of mine owners, artisanal miners and their associations, and visited three gem-producing mines. Universally, members of the mining community expressed a desire to re-enter the global gemstone community after decades of corruption and mismanagement within the gemstone sector.

Yes, there are a host of problems plaguing the country and certainly they impact the gemstone industry, but it is abundantly clear that the people of Myanmar want to improve on the democratic reforms they have achieved thus far and they are serious about engaging the international community in building a vibrant and responsible gemstone marketplace.  

To see the details of our visit and read the Myanmar White paper please go to http://agta.org/info/docs/burmawhitepaper2016.pdf

Bahia Golden Rutilated Quartz Mine, A Model for Artisinal Gem Mining as a Foundation for Sustainable Economic Growth

Responsible Sourcing Initiative: connecting small scale artisanal mining with the consumer.   

Objective: Imagine, develop, and implement a model project that can be replicated using the natural capital resource from a region of artisanal small scale mining for gemstone as the foundation for “sustainable” economic development, environmental stewardship, and community security. Connect the story from source to consumer.

The Setting: A remote village, Remedios, Novo Horizonte, situated at the western edge of the Chapada Diamantina in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Latitude S 13 degree, at 900-1200 meter elevation. The plateau is a confluence of 3 diverse biomes, the Atlantic Coastal Rainforest (Mata Atlantica), the Serrado, and the Caatinga, resulting in exotic rare plant diversity.

Value added at the source. Sorting, processing, cleaning, introduce basic cutting & bead making. Empower Women. Focus on training women (not exclusive) in bead making and basic lapidary, all profits to the workers. This photo shows a weekly market for the women to sell the stones they collected.

Legalize not marginalize. Register miners in a co-op, legalize mining areas. (over 700 garimpeiros have been added to the cooperatives)   

Transparency. Create a certificate of origin and pay the required taxes to municipality and state for proper export. This view is the tunnel access to the Pyramid Mine.

Regenerative agriculture. Food security. Carbon sequestration. Implement organic and permaculture gardens connecting to France 4/1000initiative, UN food security.

Cultural sustainability, respect and celebrate the unique culture from the region. This group of children were playing in the village Remedios. The natural blending of cultures and race.

 

Real world example:

Located in a remote region of the Chapada Diamantina in Bahia, Brazil, the objective of this initiative is to brand the unique rutilated quartz gemstones found here to add value to the community and empower women by training in basic cutting skills. Up to 2500 artisanal miners including women, and their families depend on this resource.  Beyond supporting the infrastructure to mine and process the stones (including improving mine safety), the plan is to create sustainable methods of growing food, supporting an elementary school, and emphasizing environmental stewardship. It is contemplated that our model will be able to be replicated in other artisanal mining settings. 

The initial task of gaining support from the community, federal, state, and municipal government in the region has already been achieved by Brian Cook’s efforts in formalizing land and mining rights, legalizing miners through cooperatives. 

Creating the infrastructure to support the initiative is needed.  A facility to process stones, teach cutting skills, with a residence and garden including additional rooms for visitors to observe and participate. A Kickstart project promoted industry wide should be able to raise money for this vital infrastructure.