2008 Finalist Projects

Green Gold

Oro Verde - Colombia

Oro Verde has created a new gold standard: gold that's produced without harming the environment, and with a fair price paid to the miners.

The state of Chocó in Colombia is a treasure house of biodiversity. Up to half of the plants and animals in its rainforests are not found anywhere else on earth. Beneath the forest are rich deposits of gold - a curse for wildlife, since most mining companies in Chocó simply bulldoze the trees aside. A curse, too, for the people of Chocó. Many are Afro-Colombians - descendents of slaves brought over to mine gold by European conquerors. Exploited by illegal goldmines and ignored by the government, they see little benefit from the wealth beneath their feet.

Oro Verde is different. The project has developed a certification scheme that allows miners to distinguish their gold as socially and environmentally responsible - provided they follow a set of stringent guidelines. For example, Oro Verde's miners use harmless plant extracts instead of poisonous mercury to separate gold particles from dirt.

Customers pay a premium price for Oro Verde's product. Popular in the boutique jewellers of Colombia's capital Bogota, 'Green Gold' is now being exported around the world. "The most important thing is to have changed the notion of time for the miners who have joined us," says Oro Verde's Lina Villa. "A miner working from day to day barely making a living is only interested in survival. A miner in Oro Verde is a miner who has decided to look for a better future."

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