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Better Without Mercury

 Mercury Contamination next to the hondo River at a decommissioned ORE processing site AT THE GUALCONDA MINE located in Los Andes, Nariño, Colombia. Photo: Christina T Miller, 2018

Mercury Contamination next to the hondo River at a decommissioned ORE processing site AT THE GUALCONDA MINE located in Los Andes, Nariño, Colombia. Photo: Christina T Miller, 2018

Mercury in water is bad for everyone. Be part of the solution. Support a mercury clean-up project that keeps this neuro-toxin out of the water.

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Our Goal: $65,000

Raised to Date: $225

Our Backers: 3

 Help Get the Mercury Out Fund

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Our Story

This is completely doable. Together we can clean up the remaining 400 tons of mercury contamination at the Fairmined certified Gualconda mine in Colombia.

In 2017, after four decades of using mercury, the miners at Gualconda fully transitioned their gold ore processing away from mercury. Now, the only obstacle standing in the way of their mercury-free dream is the remediation of the original processing site.

To make this remediation project feasible for the miners (a 13 member association, “La Fortaleza”) they need outside support. Gold jewelry, from gold mined by an association of miners that really cares about mining responsibly, is better without mercury.

  ROLBERTo alvarez , (General Assistant of the Gualconda mine) and  Christina T Miller  (Sustainable jewelry consultant and Ethical Metalsmiths co-Founder) speaking about what IS NEEDED to remediate and restore the contaminated site. Photo: Fairmined

ROLBERTo alvarez, (General Assistant of the Gualconda mine) and Christina T Miller (Sustainable jewelry consultant and Ethical Metalsmiths co-Founder) speaking about what IS NEEDED to remediate and restore the contaminated site. Photo: Fairmined

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Background

In 2008, miner Rolberto Alvarez, assumed a leadership role to advance Gualconda’s commitment to eliminate the use of mercury. He dreamed of a better, cleaner future for his community.

Rolberto is both a miner and an activist. He is the General Assistant of the Gualconda mine, and President of La Fortaleza (a 13 member association). After ten years of hard work, associates of La Fortaleza realized their goal of eliminating mercury from the mining process.

As of December, 2017 La Fortaleza has a new ore processing plant that is mercury-free. Now there is only one more mercury issue to tackle: Clean up the original processing site!

Site plan post mercury clean-up developed by the Regional Environmental Authority.

This project is a fundraiser to enable La Fortaleza to correct the past. The association’s Fairmined certification mandates the use of best environmental practices. If we act now, we will help the miners rectify past actions, clean-up the environment, and protect the community from mercury poisoning.

Today, Rolberto and La Fortaleza are committed to a mercury clean-up plan, based on recommendations from the regional Environmental Authority.

The plan includes the complete remediation of the original processing site. Contaminated soil will be removed from water sources, and stored in a secure holding area. Finally, it will be overlaid with several feet of soil, seeded with native plants and will become a destination site for visitors.

The cost of this clean-up effort is estimated at $65,000 USD.

Sourcing from responsible artisanal mines is a good first step, but learning where else miners need help and stepping in is another. While this is just one of many mines, Gualconda could become a model for others because mining is better without mercury.

They want the jewelry that comes from their mine to be free from the burden of pollution.
 Rolberto and his extended Family are seen here responding to questions asked by visitors. IMAGE: Fairmined

Rolberto and his extended Family are seen here responding to questions asked by visitors. IMAGE: Fairmined

 The AREA Contaminated with Mercury sits adjacent to a pristine mountain stream making the remediation of the site a priority for La Fortaleza and the regional Environmental authority. IMAGE: video still from FRANCE 24’s Spanish Channel.

The AREA Contaminated with Mercury sits adjacent to a pristine mountain stream making the remediation of the site a priority for La Fortaleza and the regional Environmental authority. IMAGE: video still from FRANCE 24’s Spanish Channel.

 alexandre, a Miner from GUalCONDA, shows a sign Highlighting the plan for how the mercury contaminated site will look after restoration. IMAGE: Fairmined

alexandre, a Miner from GUalCONDA, shows a sign Highlighting the plan for how the mercury contaminated site will look after restoration. IMAGE: Fairmined

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You can make an impact!

 Group portrait Taken at Gualconda in March 2018. Group includes: Fairmined staff, jewelers, Consultants, Miners, Regional Environmental Authority. seven Different countries ARE REPRESENTED Photo: Fairmined

Group portrait Taken at Gualconda in March 2018. Group includes: Fairmined staff, jewelers, Consultants, Miners, Regional Environmental Authority. seven Different countries ARE REPRESENTED Photo: Fairmined

Project Partners and Donors: Old Friends and New Friends

In March, 2018 an international group of people representing a variety of jewelry related businesses (jewelers, refiners, gold traders, and activists) traveled to Colombia with the Alliance for Responsible Mining. The purpose of the trip was to meet artisanal mining communities holding Fairmined certification, deepen these fair trade relationships, and create a strong network.

Together we met Rolberto Alvarez and committed in the moment to help him eliminate mercury pollution at the Gualconda mine. This first group of fundraisers are the project partners. They recognize that gold is better without mercury.

Project Partners: Old Friends

Linhaus - United States
Moda Elan - Colombia
Paulette à Bicyclette - France
Made Line Jewelry - United States
Vipaka - United States
Alloy - Colombia
Elena Elovainio - Finland

Ethical Jewels - Italy
WWAKE - United States
Susan Wheeler Design - United States
Hoover & Strong - United States
This Is Ian - Scotland
The Precious Metals Workshop - Scotland
TRAID Gold - Germany

Donors: New Friends

Join us, we are just getting started! Thank you:

John Richardson - United States
Christina T. Miller - United States
Kathleen Lynagh - United States

 
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Go Fund - Better Without Mercury

The mercury remediation and site restoration project is being completed in six phases.

Please note: This is a dynamic project, active and in-progress. Once the $9,000 goal is met for Phase 1, funds will be sent to La Fortaleza and the work will commence. La Fortaleza will regularly keep us informed of progress.

Please help us reach our goals today. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Better Without Mercury - Phase by Phase Progress

Each set of columns represents a different phase of the program.
The fund goal is indicated by the grey bar and the amount we have raised to date is indicated by the green bar.

 

Phase 1
Prepare the area where the contaminated soil will be permanently stored. This requires the rental of excavation equipment to remove the clean soil (to be used later), and build a retaining wall.

Phase 2
Use machinery and manual processes to remove the mercury contaminated soil. The contaminated soil will be removed mechanically (again with rental equipment), but due to terrain some of the soil will need to be removed manually.

Phase 3
Transport the 400 tons of contaminated soil to the long-term storage area. Careful maneuvering and several trips with a rented front end loader will be necessary during this phase.

 

Phase 4
Replace the removed contaminated soil with clean soil (originally removed from the long-term storage area) and plant native vegetation. The miners have already begun growing plants for this phase.

Phase 5
Reforest the entire remediated area with native species. The miners plan to continue their nature trails and create an educational area to show how mining used to be done. This reforestation process will be planned and carefully executed.

Phase 6
At the newly revegetated and reforested area, continue the construction of nature trails, and establish zones for swimming along with habitats for fish. Finish the construction of the historical mining equipment for educational purposes.


Project Expenses

 Miner from la Fortaleza tending to seedlings for the remediation project. PHoto: Rolberto Alvarez, 2018

Miner from la Fortaleza tending to seedlings for the remediation project. PHoto: Rolberto Alvarez, 2018

Budget
Fundraising Goal - $65,000*

Expenses:

  • $55,000 - La Fortaleza Association for remediation and restoration work

  • $3,900 - Ethical Metalsmiths fiscal sponsorship fee = 6% of total raised

  • $3,500 - Christina T Miller Consulting (CTMC) for coordinating and promoting project (video production, webpage development, social media campaign, travel for promotion, etc.).

  • Bank wiring fees. TBD

  • 2.9% + 0.30 per transaction to Stripe (credit card transaction tool used by Squarespace - Ethical Metalsmiths's website platform).

*The goal may be increased or reduced based on real-time project expenses.

Funds raised will be released to La Fortaleza periodically in coordination with actual on the ground work.

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Project Team

This project is being coordinated by: Christina Tatiana Miller in partnership with Rolberto Alvarez.

 
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Rolberto Alvarez

Rolberto Alvarez the general manager of Gualconda and has been a miner since childhood. He is the current legal representative of the Asociación Agrominera de los Andes “Fortaleza.”

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Christina Miller

Christina is an independent sustainable jewelry consultant, providing strategy, guidance, and impact measurement to help jewelers make lives better around the world. Christina is co-founder and advisory council chair of Ethical Metalsmiths.

 
Real mining wealth comes when we can know that we are part of a sustainable and responsible economy.
— Rolberto Alvarez