One of the most important aspects of a Fair Trade Gems protocol is protection for the environment, during mining, cutting, and jewelry manufacturing.
Unlike mining for most commodities and minerals, gems are usually mined by hand, with small hand-held tools, minimizing the lasting impact on the surrounding environment. A gemstone miner is much more likely to use a shovel or a basket than a backhoe.
Working closely with mine workers, who generally live near the gem deposits, Columbia Gem House plans mining operations to safeguard the natural setting of the mine. This means leaving as much vegetation as possible untouched to reduce the impact on wildlife habitat.
In particular, we work to protect streams, watersheds, and groundwater from natural sediment as well as pollutants: mining operations move a lot of earth and rock but, with planning, we can ensure that sediment does not block or divert streams or runoff channels to harm fish and other marine life.
After mining is completed, it is our policy to restore and replant mine sites to as close to original condition as possible. What were once sapphire mines in Australia are now beautiful lush pastures.