Swiss Better Gold: Switzerland Takes on Artisanal Gold Challenges

Yannick Nardin

By Yannick Nardin29 août 2023

In a concerted effort spanning since 2013, a Swiss initiative has been actively addressing the complex terrain of small-scale gold mining through a collaborative approach between miners and buyers. Amidst reports of positive impact and a tragic incident in an accredited mine, Diana Culillas, Secretary General of the Swiss Better Gold Association, sheds exclusive light on the matter.

In 2022, Swiss Better Gold generated an impact premium of USD 3.5 million (DR)

3,9 tons

Swiss Better Gold to be imported into Switzerland in 2022

3627 tons

World gold production in 2022


World gold production refined in Switzerland

Diana Culillas, Secretary General of the Swiss Better Gold Association (Swiss Better Gold Association)

Gold captivates the eyes, stirs emotions, and fuels dreams of prosperity. Its extraction also sustains the livelihoods of countless individuals worldwide. Small-scale gold mining, employing over 20 million workers (accounting for 90% of active gold extraction labor), contributes merely 10 to 20% of the global gold volume. Interestingly, each miner indirectly supports five more individuals. This type of small-scale mining is prevalent in many developing countries, often serving as the sole income source for millions and their families. While sharing the fruits of their labor seems intuitive, the task proves intricate. Artisanal production frequently occurs under harsh conditions, endangering both humans and the environment. These informal operations often facilitate illicit financial flows.

The Chopard brand uses gold produced by accredited Colombian artisanal gold-panners Swiss Better Gold (Swiss Better Gold Ass.)

In a reverse perspective, investing in and supporting artisanal mines carries substantial potential for positive impact. Various initiatives, such as Fair Trade, Fairmined, Solidaridad, and Planet Gold, are committed to fostering responsible practices on-site. Considering that around 70% of global refining capacity resides in Switzerland and driven by a desire to bolster small-scale mining, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has partnered with the Swiss Better Gold Association since 2013. This association currently comprises 25 members, including around fifteen buyers—refiners, banks, and Swiss luxury watch and jewelry brands (like Audemars Piguet, Breitling, Cartier, Chopard, Metalor, Valcambi, UBS, and Raiffeisen). Presently operational in Latin America—Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia—the Swiss Better Gold initiative aims to enhance social and environmental practices in small-scale artisanal mines and dependent communities through direct field support.

The Breitling brand had exclusive rights to gold from the Touchstone mine in Colombia (Breitling)

The "Swiss Better Gold" label is bestowed upon mines accredited for adhering to criteria aligned with OECD due diligence guidelines and the LBMA Responsible Sourcing Programme. These mines directly sell their Swiss Better Gold to Association members in Switzerland. In 2022, Switzerland imported 3.9 tons of Swiss Better Gold (for comparison, the Fairmined initiative reported a production of 104.6 kg in 2021—1,739 tons since 2014—while global production reached 3,627.7 tons in 2022).

A fund, fueled by a $1 USD per gram premium on Swiss Better Gold, subsequently finances social and environmental projects in accredited mines. By the end of February 2023, the Swiss Better Gold Association released its inaugural impact report, highlighting a decade of action, especially in the preceding year. However, a severe fire in a Peruvian mine in early May raised numerous questions.

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