The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) is a pioneering global initiative with the mission to set standards for responsible artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), enable and support producers to supply “Fairmined” certified metals and minerals to the market through economically fair supply chains, andcontribute to the transformation of ASM into a socially and environmentally responsible activity while at the same time improving the quality of life of marginalized artisanal miners, their families and their communities. In 2006 ARM set up a Technical Committee tasked with drafting a set of standards and criteria, Standard Zero for Fair Trade Artisanal Gold and Associated Silver and Platinum. Betweenthem the Committee's institutional and individual members possess expertise on aspects of ASM and fair trade including certification and chain of custody, strengthening of ASM producer organizations, occupational health and safety issues, mercury abatement, environmental management, gender issues, child labour issues, decent labour issues, emergency preparedness and response, cleaner production,public policy and formalization of ASM, ecological restoration, governance, sustainable livelihoods, and issues related to marketing. One of the very first challenges facing the Technical Committee for Standard Zero was the criteria for certifiable gold. Should gold produced in compliance with Standard Zero be a "chemical-free" product (similar to “organic” produce) or should it be fairly traded,aiming to secure progressive improvement in the conditions of production? Should mercury use be banned completely and ARM work only with "mercury-free" artisanal miners or should the Technical Committee draw up rules aimed at minimizing mercury loss and reducing the environmental impact of artisanal mining? Given what is now known about mercury toxicity and the trend towards a "zero mercury"strategy, this was not an easy decision. Although mercury-free artisanal gold was expected to enjoy high prestige and market acceptance and communicate a clear message to artisanal miners, for many artisanal miners amalgamation is the only technology they are familiar with or available to them, and it is the miners themselves who as a result of their daily contact with mercury are the population groupmost exposed to health and environmental risk and urgently needing support. After taking all of the Technical Committee's deliberations into account, ARM has adopted a policy position that it believes offers artisanal miners maximum developmental benefit. The ten different aspects of ARM’s policy on mercury use for the production of Fairmined® certified gold can be summarized as follows.
1. ARMand mercury
Mercury toxicity is a well-known phenomenon and serious global issue. ARM considers it essential, and the only ethical option, to support and work with all global initiatives to achieve a dramatic reduction in mercury pollution and reduced mercury use. “ARM is highly aware of all the environmental risks associated with mercury and supports all global efforts to reduce mercury pollutionand use”
2. ARM and large and medium-scale mining
Over the last hundred years the mining sector has become divided and highly polarized between the large-scale industrialized mining sector and the millions of artisanal miners who continue to engage in mineral extraction activities in conditions similar to those that prevailed throughout the mining industry a century ago. The industrialmining sector has made significant efforts to improve the living standards and working conditions of its employees and labour force but most of the millions of artisanal miners and their families in Latin America, Asia and Africa still live in conditions of extreme poverty. ARM’s policy is not to encourage further polarization of the large-scale industrial and small-scale artisanal sectors but is...