Ethically Sourced Crystals 101

You know those moments where the world seems to crack open and you never see things the same way again? Mine happened when I found out about conflict minerals and it changed the way I do business.

Learning about Lapis Lazuli funding war to the tune of $20 million a year in Afghanistan, and Copper mines in the Congo (where much of malachite and chrysocolla is found) working kids in unsafe conditions as young as six, opened my eyes and my heart. I could never run Mandala Gems the same way again, simply picking out the prettiest crystals for you.  

I have doubled down on sourcing my crystals as ethically as possible, which means asking LOTS of questions to mine owners and wholesalers, and walking away when the answers don't align with my values. Leading with my heart and continually educating myself and the crystal industry is now a huge part of my mission in business.  It's important to me that we cultivate a strong relationship with all our suppliers, most of whom are small, family owned mines.

 

When beginning a relationship with a new mine owner or individual miner, we ask a lot of questions. In order to work with us they need to answer the following:

Environmental impact

How is the miner/mining company working the land?  Are they using harmful mining practices?

Are they remediating the land after the area has been "mined out"?  What exactly are they doing?

Fair Trade

Are the miners paid a fair wage?  What are hours do they work?

Worker Safety

Do you hire underage workers?

What kind of protective equipment are they provided with?

 

If they don't know the answer to these questions, have unsatisfactory answers, or can't back up their claims, we let them know we are looking to work only with those who have the same code of ethics as we do and we continue on.  I feel by doing this we are letting them know if they want to continue to be in business they will need to change how they conduct their business.

 

For example, my biggest connection in Madagascar, where we get the overwhelming majority of our crystals, is VERY transparent about how they do business.  

They told me the exact protective gear given out, the environmental remediation techniques they used after mining, such as:

"the excavated areas are filled back in with waste rock, replicating the succession of soil layers, and the original shape of the landscape is returned. Finally, we restore native vegetation with replanting projects."

 They go on to talk about the school and health climic they built locally for the community to use without cost.  

"We constructed a school for the remote communities near the mines in 2000. We pay for the local children’s education, school supplies, and the salaries of the teachers. Additionally, we built a health clinic there in 2017. We pay for both the medical supplies and the salaries of the nurses and doctors."

They include housing and food when the miners are on the job.  They work 8-5 with a paid lunch hour.  And if this mining business can do this, all mining companies can.  

 

 

Some minerals that are very difficult to find ethically mined include:

Malachite, commonly mined by child labor, especially in the Congo.

Chrysocolla, also commonly mined by child labor in Africa.

I have only found one source that has documented ethical practices for these African minerals. They focus on going directly to remote villages and creating a relationships in sourcing crystals they are paid fairly. They teach locals to build small business and prioritize working with all women owned mines. And most importantly, there is NO CHILD LABOR!

There are a few minerals I haven't been able to carry as I haven't found any  ethical sources.  The list includes:

Lapis Lazuli - The overwhelming majority of Lapis Lazuli is from Afghanistan.  It is a conflict-crystal, funding war in the region, and so I no longer carry it in my store. 

 

 

As a consumer, there are a few ways to decipher when a crystal probably isn't ethically mined.  

Ask these three simple questions.

"Where is this crystal sourced?"  

Most of the time, crystal shops just buy from a large wholesaler, and have no direct connection or understanding of where their crystals come from.  

"Does the mine owner pay a fair wage and provide personal protective equipment to the miners?"

The price tag. It costs more to provide ethically sourced crystals.  The question should not be, "Why is this crystal so expensive?" It should be "Why is this one so cheap?" 

  

 

 

 

 

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