New rules designed to prioritize safety for many of the world’s most vulnerable gold miners may in fact put their livelihoods at risk.
(Bloomberg) — When his fellow miners winch him up from the hole in the desert, Keith Gushure is covered in mud. Gushure, 21, holds a pick and a hammer. For the past 18 hours he’s been trying to chip, gouge and pry gold out of the 56-foot (17-meter) mine he helped dig, one of a series of deep pockmarks that dot the dry, flat landscape in Umguza, Zimbabwe, 230 miles (372 kilometers) southwest of the capital Harare.
Despite the parching heat, Gushure is smiling. He’s yanked enough precious metal out of the dark shaft to once again justify spending the past four months away from his wife and baby. “I have to feed my family,” he said.
Gushure and others like him—the industry euphemism for their back-breaking labor is “artisanal” mining as if they were fine English silversmiths—will have a tougher time selling their gold legitimately under new guidelines from the London Bullion Market Association.
That’s because some of their haul could be classified as “blood gold”—produced outside any safety or environmental rules and possibly contributing to such crimes as child labor, slavery and funding illegal arms. International investors have demanded producers conform to responsible mining standards.
“Although miners here want to comply, many won’t be able to,” said Dosman Mangisi, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Miners Federation. “It’s a noble idea, but it may be too costly for us.”
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