Fairmined certification contributes to the well-being of small-scale miners

Fairmined certification contributes to the well-being of small-scale miners

By Natalia Uribe Martinez

The information presented in this blog is the result of the research paper by Natalia Uribe Martinez, Standards and Certification manager, as part of her master’s in Development Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at Erasmus Rotterdam University, The Hague, The Netherlands. This research article is being submitted for publication in the Journal Extractive Industries and Society.

The well-being of small-scale miners who are part of certified organizations in Colombia and Peru is greater than the same population that does not have the benefits of Fairmined certification.

This finding is the result of academic research carried out in 2020, in which miners from these two countries participated. To assess this impact, I carried out academic research intending to evaluate the impact on miners’ well-being who are part of Fairmined certified small-scale mining organizations. To achieve this objective, I created a well-being index with 27 indicators that respond to the agreed variables of material and subjective well-being in the literature. The index includes Education, Health and Safety, Income, Wealth and Housing, Work and Labor Quality, Social Connections and Subjective Well-being dimensions.


Through 321 surveys of certified and non-certified miners, I capture the data of the index and evaluate the possible differences in the well-being of miners who are certified or not. The surveys were applied to the partners and workers from two Fairmined certified organizations in Colombia out of the three certified organizations in this country and the four certified mining organizations in Peru. Additionally, I survey miners from non-certified organizations in both countries. The data collection was between July and November 2020. The collected information includes the socioeconomic characteristics of the miners related to their quality of life.

This research is relevant in an environment where there is a growing interest to understand the effects of the certifications of sustainability standards in the minerals sector. On the other hand, it contributes from a quantitative perspective in measuring the impact on small mining producers’ certifications since it does not exist previous research on the subject with this approach. Although, it exists in other fair-trade products and sustainable practices.


Characteristics of miners

The respondents represent 85% men (164 workers and 109 partners) and 15% women (29 workers, 18 partners). Specifically, 208 (65%) certified miners (150 in Colombia and 58 in Peru) and 113 (35%) non-certified miners (59 in Colombia and 54 in Peru).

Level of education: both types of miners have, on average, completed a high school level. That is, no difference is observed between certified and non-certified miners.

Economic dependence: on average, certified miners have 3 people who depend economically on them; on the other hand, non-certified miners have only 2 people.

Life’ satisfaction: certified miners seem to be more satisfied with their lives than their counterparts when I consider the components of health, life and income satisfaction. According to the data, certified miners are on average more satisfied in these three components than non-certified miners.

Environmental and Social awareness: certified miners declare themselves, on average, more aware of environmental and social problems in mining than their counterparts.

Level of wealth measured in goods and services at home: the results show, on average, certified miners have more goods and services at their homes than non-certified miners.

Time in mining and working hours: certified miners have been working in the sector for more than 21 years and their counterparts, non-certified miners, have been working for 19 years. On average, certified miners work longer hours, on average 45.5 hours per week. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is Fairmined certified organizations provide more work stability that guarantees permanent jobs in better conditions such as contracts, salaries, social protection, etc., while the non-certified work 38 hours a week.

The well-being of the miners in Fairmined is higher

The research’s main result in on average, the well-being index for Fairmined members and certified workers is 0.64 compared to 0.61 for non-certified miners. Taking into consideration that the index is from 0 to 1.

Since Fairmined seeks to improve workers’ conditions, who are the most exposed to the risks inherent to the mining activity, I compare the well-being index of partners and workers. The results indicated that the Fairmined certification improves the well-being conditions of the workers more than the partners. In other words, the difference in well-being between certified and non-certified workers is considerably greater than the difference between partners of certified organizations versus partners of non-certified organizations. The well-being index for non-certified workers is 0.59 and 0.63 for certified workers.

Finally, when making different estimates controlling for other factors that the literature considers relevant, I conclude that Fairmined certified miners are better off than non-certified miners in 4 percentage points. These results are positive and statistically significant both for the linear regressions applied and when I applied the Propensity Score Matching and Average Treatment Effect.