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Pro Bono Fellowships

Oro Verde was set up over 10 years ago by a group of Colombian environmentalists seeking to preserve the unique bioregion of the Colombian Chocó.  The Oro Verde program helps artisanal miners in this region to produce and sell gold in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. The miners have to comply with certain ecological and social standards in order to achieve Oro Verde certification. The certified gold is then sold at a premium to jewellers in Europe, Asia and the US and the profits are reinvested into the mining communities.

I worked for two months in the Oro Verde office in Medellin.  I was involved in work relating to branding and trade mark infringement issues, for example identifying trade mark applications that conflicted with Oro Verde's registrations, sending cease and desist letters, advising on trade mark oppositions and advising on brand protection.

Oro Verde is currently changing the way that it is structured.  Every penny of profit made in the sale of the gold goes back to the miners and their communities.  This will not change but in order to survive, the project needs to move to a sustainable model that will enable the program to fund itself.  I therefore worked on drafting the contracts and licences to be used in the new structure, as well as doing extensive research on fair trade supply chains and the various alternatives for creating a sustainable, fair trade organization.

The best part of working for Oro Verde was visiting the Chocó and the Oro Verde miners.  We stayed in one of the mining communities in the middle of the jungle, two hours up river from the nearest road.  It was incredible to see the impact that gold and platinum mining has on the jungle and the rivers and the way that adhering to ecological standards can reduce that impact.  Visiting the mines highlighted the huge logistical task faced by Oro Verde in getting the gold to the jewellers and boutiques of Europe but meeting the miners confirmed the great value in ensuring that they continue to do so.

- Fenella Chambers

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