* Fairtrade Gold volumes set to reach 350 kg this year
* Expansion into Africa unveiled one year after launch
* Four groups in Latin America certified so far
By Jan Harvey
March 6 (Reuters) - The Fairtrade Foundation will begin working with African gold miners for the first time this year, the organisation said on Tuesday, 12 months after it launched the Fairtrade Gold brand with metal sourced from Latin America.
The organisation will work with eight mining groups in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to address dangerous working practices and environmental damage in small-scale gold mining.
Fairtrade said in a statement mining in Africa often involves the use of hazardous mercury, deforestation, poor working conditions and child labour. The group expects gold to arrive in the UK from Africa in the next two or three years.
“Through the financial and developmental benefits of Fairtade - including additional premium, pre-finance and long-term business relations with traders - ... more producers have a chance to lift themselves out of poverty,” the Fairtrade Foundation’s business development manager Victoria Waugh said in the statement.
Four mining groups, all in Latin America, were certified by Fairtrade in the first year of the standard, which was launched on Valentine’s Day 2011. Two more are expected to receive certification in May.
Fairtrade said the Peruvian town of Santa Filomena, certified by the group a year ago, had used the premium they receive for their gold to invest in healthcare, extend its primary school and buy computers for older students.
The organisation expects around 350 kg of Fairtrade gold, worth some $19.1 million at current spot prices, to be produced this year. The group tends to work with small-scale and artisinal miners.
Forty jewellers currently use Fairtrade gold in their designs, including Alex Monroe, Anna Loucah, and Stephen Webster, who designed singer Madonna’s wedding ring for her marriage to film producer Guy Ritchie.
While the standard has received vocal support from the industry, the premium of Fairtrade gold over metal sourced on the international markets, which the group says is 10-15 percent, can make it expensive for jewellers at a time when spot gold prices are more than five times higher than a decade ago. (Editing by James Jukwey)