A brief history of mining in La Llanada

At 2300 meters high in the green mountains of the municipality of La Llanada in the department of Nariño, is the Coodmilla Mining Cooperative. This small and quiet municipality has a strong mining tradition, as it has become the community’s livelihood and an important part of their cultural identity, supporting more than 8800 people.

Originally, the Abades, an indigenous community, were the first to mine in this region. Since the year 1530 there has been no record of this now extinct community and it was not until 1930 that mining began again in the region, after a man accidentally found gold in a small river basin during his morning walk in what is now the area near La Llanada. The land was sold to Canadian companies, who mined without involving the local community until the end of the Second World War when metal prices fell and exploitation was no longer profitable. Subsequently, the companies left – although they are also said to have been driven away by furious workers – and the mines were left abandoned.

In the sixties and seventies, the local population resumed the activities of informal mining, taking advantage of some techniques learned from the Canadians. However, they did not have the technology or experience to carry out responsible mining. As the situation became known, more and more people migrated to La Llanada from other regions looking for new income opportunities.

In order to work formally and safely, in 1977 the Mining Cooperative of Llanada was created: Coodmilla Ltd. In 1990, they were granted operating licenses, which gave the cooperative’s members the right to enter the mines, in turn generating a fair income for their families and other members of the community of La Llanada. Traditionally this was a village with high levels of informal mining, mining-related diseases, social problems and lack of opportunities and access to education. Thanks to the help of ARM in formalizing processes and the formation of the cooperative, its members have been able to finally obtain the Fairmined Certification, which ensures them a future full of opportunities for their families and their community. Coodmilla’s mining activity directly benefits around 200 families and indirectly more than 1000.

Achievements and results of Fairmined Certification

The Fairmined Certification implies a lot of challenges for miners living under empirical and cultural traditions. To obtain the certification, they had to adapt their activities to formalized administrative processes and organize the documents that contain all the details of their operations. Although it was not easy to achieve, miners learned step by step the importance of all the processes and implemented significant improvements thanks to the Fairmined Standard. Below are the most important achievements for Coodmilla.

A simple but effective internal control system was created. This system did not exist at the institutional level, but from now there is a monitoring process that allows to follow the traceability of gold and highlights the transparency of the Cooperative.

Miners became aware that by helping each other, they could all benefit from the Fairmined Premium. With the Premium, other miners can be supported in the certification process, to increase their number each year.

New mining fronts were able to obtain the certification, with many improvements in terms of sustainability, safety and administration.

Through the objective of the certification, 7 lifeguards and more than 30 First Aid workers were trained.

Thanks to the Fairmined Certification the mining cooperative has been able to enter international markets with fair prices.

“Last year there were 5 certified mines, now there is 1 certified cooperative with 10 mines participating in the Fairmined production system. For us the technical support of ARM was important such as the communication they are doing about the benefits and good results of the Fairmined Certification in Colombia and worldwide. Likewise, the successes in jewellery and international prizes – such as the Olympic Laurel and the Nobel Peace Prize -, which have been made with Fairmined Gold, make feel an immense joy to the miner and the community, highlighting the good things of our region. It also creates confidence and motivation for new miners who would like to join the certification process.” Daniel Riascos, Legal Representative of Coodmilla.

Mines with Fairmined Certification

In 2015, five mines belonging to Coodmilla achieved Fairmined Certification. The miners soon saw the results and recognitions of their hard work, which in turn motivated the other miners of the Coodmilla cooperative. One of its most outstanding achievements was that its Fairmined certified gold was used in the production of the Nobel Peace Prize medal that was given to the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Oslo on December 10th, 2016.

On the 16 of January 2016, Ccoodmilla was certified with 10 mines participating in the Fairmined production system, thus unifying its partners. Today 140 miners are part of the production system under the Fairmined Standard. For Paul Guerrero, owner of one of the first certified companies, mining is a family tradition and the fundamental pillar of its economy: “Thanks to the good results of the mining work we can ensure the professional education of our children and achieve economic and family stability. The Fairmined Certification was a challenge, but now demonstrates to others that with a lot of effort, work and dedication, you can reach your goals that generate recognition for artisanal mining as a whole.”

An example of responsible mining

At Coodmilla, the Fairmined production system consists of 7 labour groups and has a plant in which the mineral material extracted from the mine is crushed and grounded. In addition, they use gravimetric shaking tables and a final process with a wooden handheld gold pan.  The type of mineral and the gravimetric process with milling/crushing allows them to omit the use of cyanide and mercury. The entire process of gold recovery is chemical-free, which makes Coodmilla a global example of how to mine responsibly.

Coodmilla also has experience in exportation and was recognized under the “Entrepreneurial Leadership Award” in 2016 by the Pasto Chamber of Commerce for the quality of its exportation process. In addition, they were nominated for the 2016 Portfolio Award, in the Exporter Endeavour category.

Fairmined Premium

Download the Fairmined Premium Report and discover how artisanal and small-scale mining organizations (ASMO) have used the Fairmined Premium. This Premium rewards ASMO for their responsible practices and the financial and human resources invested to achieve Fairmined Certification.