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Fairtrade gold to protect miners

The world's first Fairtrade and Fairmined gold is being launched in the UK today as a first step in tackling the poverty and dangerous conditions faced by small-scale miners.

The royal jeweller Garrard is among 20 companies to launch the new gold, which has been used in collections and one-off pieces including wedding and engagement rings, earrings and necklaces. Each piece will carry a Fairtrade and Fairmined hallmark.

Yesterday, some of the stars on the Bafta red carpet were said to be wearing the jewellery, including Colin Firth's wife, the Italian film producer Livia Giuggioli. The couple's commitment to Fairtrade is well known, and their business interests include the ethical-coffee cafes Progreso and Eco, a west London shop selling Fairtrade and environment-friendly goods.

The Fairtrade Foundation said hundreds of thousands of workers had been lured to gold mining by the surging price on world markets.

But it remained one of the world's most dangerous industries.

The price of gold has risen from $320 (£200) an ounce in 1999 to more than $1,400 last year.

The Fairtrade minimum price for pure gold is set at 95 per cent of the London Bullion Market Association's fix – the international agreed price. But the foundation said small producers received anything from 30 per cent to 85 per cent of the fix.

The Fairtrade and Fairmined system requires miners to adhere to a set of standards, guaranteeing that gold is produced in a way that is safe for people and the environment.

In return, miners will receive a set minimum price for their gold plus a Fairtrade premium to invest in community and business development projects.

The Cotapata Mining Co-operative in Bolivia is the first certified mining organisation, with more groups expected to join the system in the coming weeks and months.