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From ‘criminals of the earth’ to ‘stewards of the environment': the social and environmental justice of Fair Trade gold

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2014
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)129-137
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date29/09/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The recent emergence of the Fairtrade certification of gold in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa promises a radical new direction for the environmental governance of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). In doing so, it aims to tackle the longstanding environment and development challenges of the sector which mainstream policy has failed to alleviate. The move towards more responsible ASM practices is premised on the strategic deployment of a Fair Trade discourse that argues for its operators to be recognized not as criminals, but as valued and formalized parts of their broader economies. It is argued in this paper that this development intervention should be read within a social and environmental justice framework, one which directly answers the call from political geography for ‘compelling accounts’ of positive representations of the sector.

Through a discourse analysis of 10 years of media reports, interviews and recorded life histories of key ASM and Fair Trade stakeholders in Tanzania, it shows how three strands of justice (conceptualized in terms of fairer distribution, procedure and recognition) are articulated by the Fair Trade gold movement and critically assesses the politics behind such a deliberate strategy. In particular, it argues that recognition is a key part of justice that has been underplayed by erstwhile analyses of Fair Trade. Through a case study of Tanzania, it is concluded that although significant progress has been made in terms of arguing for greater recognition for ASM operators, there remains a need to better link discourse with practice in establishing greater distributional justice.