Cooperativa Multiactiva Agrominera del Municipio de Iquira
From Coffee Beans to Gold Nuggets
Coffee cultivation sustained community members in the Fairmined certified Cooperativa Multiactiva Agrominera del Municipio de Iquira for generations. But as interest in verdant southwest Colombia’s gold and silver deposits began to rise in the early 2000s, several coffee farmers in the area began splitting their time between artisanal mining and farming. The Iquira miners are leveraging this relatively new community activity to drive positive local change.
Lovingly Protecting their Community
Because artisanal mining can have negative effects if not done properly, the co-operative members have been eager to learn about and implement the responsible social and environmental practices learned through their Fairmined Certification.
“No one is born knowing everything,” said the cooperative’s General Manager. “We are eager to participate in as much training as we can.”
Characterized by a strong sense of unity and loving spirit, the Iquira cooperative has become even more conscious of mining’s potential impacts on their community through the Fairmined workshops and training. “We don’t want our families, our neighbors and their children to be harmed by contamination,” said the General Manager.
This desire to mine responsibly has long characterized the cooperative. Thanks to early community organizing efforts, the local miners/coffee cultivators organized to form the Cooperative in 2004 and achieve official license and registration through the Colombian government.
Fairmined Certification and Impact
Iquira achieved Fairmined Certification in August 2014, driven by the motivation to obtain international recognition for being an exemplary small-scale mining organization in Colombia, complying with all mining regulations and being socially committed. A further incentive was the Fairmined Premium to help grow the cooperative, complying with regulations and offering wellbeing for associates, miners, workers and their families. Due to their motivation and confidence in the certification process they overcame important challenges, such as:
- Eradication of dumping mercury into water, ground or air.
- Establishing a plan to further gradually reduce mercury.
- A management system for security and health to reduce risks associated to mining activities.
One year after certification the positive effects were already evident. 3 months after becoming certified the cooperative had established commercial relationships with buyers from Europe and North America and they sold 100% of their gold into Fairmined supply chains. With the Fairmined Premium they could invest in better administrative facilities for the associates and workers of the cooperative. Furthermore, Iquira was able to reduce 80% of its mercury use.
“The program benefited all of the associates and strengthened the organization in general. A special achievement was developing the ability to export. Our first exportation was done upon our first sale of Fairmined certified gold. It was difficult because we didn’t know how to export, but we learned and now we do it without any problems. Furthermore, we didn’t have an office for two years, but thanks to the Fairmined Premium we received after selling our certified gold we could buy one, including computer equipment. Now we have a foundation to work on, to strengthen the organization and all that makes part of it, the associates and the workers, because a company’s organizational capacity is important for it to function.” says Alfredo González González, legal representative of Iquira.
PREMIUM RECEIVED BETWEEN AUGUST 2014 AND 2015: $60.365 USD
With the Fairmined Premium Iquira was able to establish its own office to improve the governance of the cooperative; improved the roads leading to the mines, purchased 2 gas detectors, and leased a truck.
The Premium Committee decided to allocate the Premium as follows: 60% for investments in processing plants to be able to completely eliminate mercury, 20% for education, 10% for health and 10% for social causes.
In 2015, the Palme D’Or from the Cannes Film Festivals and the Nobel Peace Prize were fabricated with Fairmined certified gold from Iquira, acknowledging them nationally and internationally as a responsible cooperative.
Small-scale mining plays an important role in the local community. The cooperative supports more than 200 people through their work. With increased income thanks to mining, the cooperative has greater opportunities and an amplified long-term business vision.
The Alliance for Responsible Mining was able to support this mining organization thanks to a project with the Inter-American Development Bank and its Multilateral Investment Fund, Fundación Ayuda and Fondo para la Acción Ambiental y la Ninez.
To learn more about how about you can support organizations like Cooperativa Multiactiva Agrominera del Municipio de Iquira and make a real difference to the lives of miners and their communities, please visit our partnerships page.
Read blog post from Fairmined Licensee Bario Neal about their experience visiting Iquira during the miner’s workshop in 2014.
Cooperative Members: 6 women and 34 men
Hired workers: 3 woman and 49 men
Type of Mining: Hard rock
Interesting Fact: Located in Colombia’s famous coffee region, the miners alternate seasonally between artisanal gold mining and coffee cultivation.
Iquira is Fairmined certified since August 2014.