An article in August reported that the newest place for mining gold illegally is the Peruvian Amazon, with more than 400,000 miners along the Madre de Dios river. The report said these miners bring in nearly a fifth of Peru's annual 175 metric tons of gold.“The main culprits of illegal mining are diverse,” Rhett said. “They range from the small-scale wildcat miners to the well-capitalized large-scale operators. The miners themselves are usually poor, but the backers and investors are often wealthy. Impacts are often felt downstream in areas that see almost no benefits from mining. Mercury ends up in waterways and finds its way into the fish people eat. Mining also silts up rivers, affecting water quality and transportation.” In the Madre de Dios region, Swenson's study found, roughly 7,000 hectares, or about 15,200 acres, of forest and wetlands were cleared at two large mining sites between 2003 and 2009. “Artisanal mining has occurred in the region since the time of the Incas, but the recent record-setting rise in gold prices has shifted its pace into hyper-drive,” Swenson said. The mining "is now plainly visible from space.” This toxic activity, however, may become cleaner, thanks to an initiative launched last year by the UK-based Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO), which requires companies to pay sustainable prices to combat the injustices of conventional trade that hurt the poorest and weakest producers, and the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), an independent initiative established in 2004 to enhance equity and well-being in artisanal and small-scale mining communities. New Fairtrade and Fairmined gold standards mean that globally over 100 million artisanal and small-scale miners, who produce 15 percent of the world's gold but make up 90 percent of the labor in gold extraction, will get a better price with the Fairtrade guaranteed minimum price set at 95 percent of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). These miners will have the opportunity to form groups to give themselves better bargaining power with traders, to get a fairer return for their produce (the FLO says that once everyone takes their percentage, the small miner may receive as little as 70 percent of the LBMA) and gain greater control over the jewellery supply chain.
Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation said in a statement released last year when the standard was introduced: “The launch of Fairtrade and Fairmined standards for gold provides a lifeline for communities who find themselves at the mercy of unbalanced markets. Many face exploitation from middle men who pay below market prices and cheat them on weight and purity of the gold content. Our research shows that customers believe buying jewellery for a special occasion holds greater value and significance if it carried the Fairtrade and Fairmined hallmark.”Illegal Mining Rises in Amazon Rainforest as Gold Prices Reach Records from Gold Investing News