Supporting Women Miners Is Fabulous Healing Energy

At Moonrise Crystals we believe that supporting artisanal and small scale female miners empowers women and promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

As an advocate for ethical sourcing for gems and minerals, we are always asking, “who benefits and why?” and “is it fair?” 

If it’s not fair, then how do we move towards justice and mercy?  In both the legal and moral sense, what needs to change in order to uplift and bring healing?  We believe that helping women miners better access the healing crystal market is one way of leveling the playing field.

Understanding the Problem

Healing crystals are largely a product of artisanal and small scale mining (ASM).  Women make up between 30-50% of the ASM workforce depending on the country.  However, few women are involved in the highest value-bearing places, i.e.: legal mines and fair markets.  Instead, women are more likely to be found in periphery roles such as panning, washing, and sorting.  They are also pushed into supportive roles, such as procuring food and equipment for male miners, transportation and other services, or entertainment including sex-work. [1]

Relatively few women in ASM are being paid fairly and work in a safe environment.  These women are often handling the minerals that are later sold in wealthy countries as healing crystals.  These gemstones are celebrated for their metaphysical energies of love, peace, happiness, and abundance.  If the healing crystal community truly wants these beautiful energies, we need to share them with our sisters who live in mining communities.

Depending on the country, the gender-gap in mining varies, but there are some common themes.  Most mining happens in rural areas that have lower levels of education and higher levels of poverty.  In mineral-rich countries, indigenous people are more likely to work in mining than in any other industry, beyond substance-level farming and herding.[2]  The mining industry, both ASM and large-scale, has one of the highest rates of employment sexist biases in regards to hiring and promotions.  Unsurprisingly, it also claims some of the highest levels of workplace sexual harassment.  In the vast majority of mines the safety equipment and basic facilities, like bathrooms and changing rooms, overwhelming ignore women’s physical bodies and needs.[3]  Misogynistic superstitions say that women are “bad luck” in mines.

In mining communities, traditional gender roles tend to be more pronounced.  Unfortunately, the cultural ideal of a stay-at-home wife and mother may not match the financial reality.  Many women need to work outside of the home in order to provide for themselves and their families.  In nations that don’t have free public schools, mothers may turn to mining as a way to earn money for their children’s school fees, uniforms, and other necessities.  Education is correctly viewed as a way to a better life for the next generation, but only if families can afford it.

At least 90% of all ASM is informal.[4] In some cases, this means it is an illegal activity, for example mining in a national park or other protected lands.  More often, it is simply informal, the equivalent of working “under the table.”  It is a cash-based economy with little to no paperwork.

Currently global mining efforts are pushing for formalization in ASM.  This is a good move in many ways, but for women formalization comes with complications.  For example, in many countries, women are barred from owning or inheriting land and mineral rights.[5]  Likewise, formal and legal mining is often a bureaucratic nightmare with arduous requirements.  Women may not be able to fulfill these requirements due to lack of money for fees, lack of education, far distances, language barriers, as well as cultural pressures that insist women staying in a supportive role to their male family members.

Consider for a moment, the situation in a country like Madagascar. The country is impoverished and has already experienced three major political crises in the 21st century.  Mining is the one of the main economic activities and the majority of it is informal ASM.  Madagascar is one of the top mining countries for healing crystals, particularly stones like Rose Quartz and Labradorite.   The fees and bureaucratic paperwork makes it extremely difficult to formalize.  Unsurprisingly, women are not even mentioned in the national mining code.[6] A woman miner in Madagascar who wants to get fair market value for her work will have an almost impossible uphill battle.

Supporting Women Miners Is Fabulous Healing Energy

At Moonrise Crystals we believe that supporting artisanal and small scale female miners empowers women and promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

As an advocate for ethical sourcing for gems and minerals, we are always asking, “who benefits and why?” and “is it fair?” 

If it’s not fair, then how do we move towards justice and mercy?  In both the legal and moral sense, what needs to change in order to uplift and bring healing?  We believe that helping women miners better access the healing crystal market is one way of leveling the playing field.

Understanding the Problem

Healing crystals are largely a product of artisanal and small scale mining (ASM).  Women make up between 30-50% of the ASM workforce depending on the country.  However, few women are involved in the highest value-bearing places, i.e.: legal mines and fair markets.  Instead, women are more likely to be found in periphery roles such as panning, washing, and sorting.  They are also pushed into supportive roles, such as procuring food and equipment for male miners, transportation and other services, or entertainment including sex-work. [1]

Relatively few women in ASM are being paid fairly and work in a safe environment.  These women are often handling the minerals that are later sold in wealthy countries as healing crystals.  These gemstones are celebrated for their metaphysical energies of love, peace, happiness, and abundance.  If the healing crystal community truly wants these beautiful energies, we need to share them with our sisters who live in mining communities.

Depending on the country, the gender-gap in mining varies, but there are some common themes.  Most mining happens in rural areas that have lower levels of education and higher levels of poverty.  In mineral-rich countries, indigenous people are more likely to work in mining than in any other industry, beyond substance-level farming and herding.[2]  The mining industry, both ASM and large-scale, has one of the highest rates of employment sexist biases in regards to hiring and promotions.  Unsurprisingly, it also claims some of the highest levels of workplace sexual harassment.  In the vast majority of mines the safety equipment and basic facilities, like bathrooms and changing rooms, overwhelming ignore women’s physical bodies and needs.[3]  Misogynistic superstitions say that women are “bad luck” in mines.

In mining communities, traditional gender roles tend to be more pronounced.  Unfortunately, the cultural ideal of a stay-at-home wife and mother may not match the financial reality.  Many women need to work outside of the home in order to provide for themselves and their families.  In nations that don’t have free public schools, mothers may turn to mining as a way to earn money for their children’s school fees, uniforms, and other necessities.  Education is correctly viewed as a way to a better life for the next generation, but only if families can afford it.

At least 90% of all ASM is informal.[4] In some cases, this means it is an illegal activity, for example mining in a national park or other protected lands.  More often, it is simply informal, the equivalent of working “under the table.”  It is a cash-based economy with little to no paperwork.

Currently global mining efforts are pushing for formalization in ASM.  This is a good move in many ways, but for women formalization comes with complications.  For example, in many countries, women are barred from owning or inheriting land and mineral rights.[5]  Likewise, formal and legal mining is often a bureaucratic nightmare with arduous requirements.  Women may not be able to fulfill these requirements due to lack of money for fees, lack of education, far distances, language barriers, as well as cultural pressures that insist women staying in a supportive role to their male family members.

Consider for a moment, the situation in a country like Madagascar. The country is impoverished and has already experienced three major political crises in the 21st century.  Mining is the one of the main economic activities and the majority of it is informal ASM.  Madagascar is one of the top mining countries for healing crystals, particularly stones like Rose Quartz and Labradorite.   The fees and bureaucratic paperwork makes it extremely difficult to formalize.  Unsurprisingly, women are not even mentioned in the national mining code.[6] A woman miner in Madagascar who wants to get fair market value for her work will have an almost impossible uphill battle.

Working on Solutions

In a perfect world, simply stating the problem would be enough.  Justice and mercy would be immediately implemented.  But this is not a perfect world with easy solutions.  That doesn’t mean we should just give up and accept the world the way it is.  Instead, we must try and try again, remaining loyal to the high virtues of justice and mercy.

At Moonrise Crystals, we first began talking with women miners in Malawi in December, 2020.  These miners are part of Virtu Gems, a responsible miner-to-market gemstone collaboration in south-central Africa.  Initially the idea was to offer a virtual workshop during the Covid Pandemic which would introduce these women miners to the healing crystal industry in the United States.  The workshop was a delight and there was immediate interest on both sides for us to do business together.

Virtu Gems had just begun organizing with the Malawi women miners.  The situation was delicate because of the shadow of colonialism and how it continues to impact capitalism in contemporary Africa.  The sad reality is that far too often international collaborations haven’t truly benefited African women.  We all needed time to build trust and to work out the kinks in the supply chain.  Virtu Gems recommended that Moonrise Crystals instead experiment with Pauline, the owner of a Zambian Amethyst mine.  Pauline has held a variety of leadership positions in both the public and private mining sector, and is currently the Vice President of the Federation of Small-Scale Mining Associations of Zambia.  She is a woman who is always willing to push the limits and try something new.

Our first attempt to do business was in 2021.  It was a big learning experience for everyone involved and ended in abject failure.  The mine owner was used to selling unsorted rough stones by the ton or tiny individual gems by the carat.  By contrast, Moonrise Crystals was used to buying grade-sorted stones in pounds and kilos.  No one was quite sure how to price the Amethyst in a way that was far to the miners, while still being realistic about the expectations of final customers in the United States.  A premium price is acceptable – but the quality has to look right too.  To pay a high price for low quality, could only have worked as a one-time pity-purchase.  Ethical sourcing can and does involve charity, but long-term sustainability requires consistent business relationships where both parties benefit.

A second attempt was made in 2022.  This time fate intervened and quite by coincidence, Pauline the Amethyst mine owner and Julie the owner of Moonrise Crystals ended up having lunch together at a conference.  They were completely unaware that they had tried to do business from a distance the year before.  Pauline was was wearing beautiful Amethyst bracelets and those purple beauties sparked up a conversation.  After the conference ended, we worked with Virtu Gems to strike a deal.  This time, the quality and price were acceptable to everyone, but technological difficulties tripped us up and once again the deal fell through.

A third attempt was made in 2023 and this one was a partial success! Not only was Moonrise Crystals able to get some of Pauline’s Amethyst, we also got Almandine Garnets from Mary Ann, one of the leaders of the Association of Zambian Women in Mining.  Difficulties with shipping, technology, and quality-control at the polishing factory in Zambia continue to plague us, but we are determined to push through.  Now in 2024, our fingers are crossed for our fourth attempt.  Once we can claim full success in Zambia, we can turn our attention back to Malawi.

In the meantime, Moonrise Crystals has also successfully done business with the Tanzanian Women Miner’s Association, beginning with some beautiful Moonstones, mined by Selma.  Energetically, these gems are amazing! Moonstone is a stone of the goddess and feminine energies.  These Moonstones have only ever been in women’s hands, from the miner, to market partner, and then to Moonrise Crystals.

Market partners are a critical parts of building ethical supply chains.  They act as translators, facilitate payments and paperwork, and help the miners become more financial savvy.  Market partners work in mining communities on multiple levels,  For example, the Tanzanian Women Miner’s Association partners with PACT, a global nonprofit that offers a financial literacy program called WORTH.  This is a critical part of the solution. When women are financial literate it has a tremendously positive impact on their own lives and keeps more wealth within their local communities.

Moonrise Crystals has also started doing business with a woman miner in Finland.  She doesn’t own a mine, instead she legally prospects.  Her situation is very different, yet equally informative.  We’ve watched her start and fail and then try again. We have also began a friendship with a woman mine owner in the United States.  Her situation is very different than the mine owners in Africa or the prospector in Finland.  Her stories about protecting her Wyoming Ruby claim have been eye-opening.

Salma Financial Literacy Moyo Gems

Selma (far left) holding her WORTH financial literacy program certificate

In all these relationships, two things are very clear.  The first is that no one person or organization can solve all the problems.  It’s going to take many people, many years, and we have to work together.  The second is that it takes tremendous grit and determination in order to succeed. There will be inglorious beginnings full of trials and errors.  We cannot let this discourage us from trying again.

Thank you for supporting Moonrise Crystals.  Without your purchases, our work would not be possible.  Goddess blessings to you all!

Working on Solutions

In a perfect world, simply stating the problem would be enough.  Justice and mercy would be immediately implemented.  But this is not a perfect world with easy solutions.  That doesn’t mean we should just give up and accept the world the way it is.  Instead, we must try and try again, remaining loyal to the high virtues of justice and mercy.

At Moonrise Crystals, we first began talking with women miners in Malawi in December, 2020.  These miners are part of Virtu Gems, a responsible miner-to-market gemstone collaboration in south-central Africa.  Initially the idea was to offer a virtual workshop during the Covid Pandemic which would introduce these women miners to the healing crystal industry in the United States.  The workshop was a delight and there was immediate interest on both sides for us to do business together.

Virtu Gems had just begun organizing with the Malawi women miners.  The situation was delicate because of the shadow of colonialism and how it continues to impact capitalism in contemporary Africa.  The sad reality is that far too often international collaborations haven’t truly benefited African women.  We all needed time to build trust and to work out the kinks in the supply chain.  Virtu Gems recommended that Moonrise Crystals instead experiment with Pauline, the owner of a Zambian Amethyst mine.  Pauline has held a variety of leadership positions in both the public and private mining sector, and is currently the Vice President of the Federation of Small-Scale Mining Associations of Zambia.  She is a woman who is always willing to push the limits and try something new.

Our first attempt to do business was in 2021.  It was a big learning experience for everyone involved and ended in abject failure.  The mine owner was used to selling unsorted rough stones by the ton or tiny individual gems by the carat.  By contrast, Moonrise Crystals was used to buying grade-sorted stones in pounds and kilos.  No one was quite sure how to price the Amethyst in a way that was far to the miners, while still being realistic about the expectations of final customers in the United States.  A premium price is acceptable – but the quality has to look right too.  To pay a high price for low quality, could only have worked as a one-time pity-purchase.  Ethical sourcing can and does involve charity, but long-term sustainability requires consistent business relationships where both parties benefit.

A second attempt was made in 2022.  This time fate intervened and quite by coincidence, Pauline the Amethyst mine owner and Julie the owner of Moonrise Crystals ended up having lunch together at a conference.  They were completely unaware that they had tried to do business from a distance the year before.  Pauline was was wearing beautiful Amethyst bracelets and those purple beauties sparked up a conversation.  After the conference ended, we worked with Virtu Gems to strike a deal.  This time, the quality and price were acceptable to everyone, but technological difficulties tripped us up and once again the deal fell through.

A third attempt was made in 2023 and this one was a partial success! Not only was Moonrise Crystals able to get some of Pauline’s Amethyst, we also got Almandine Garnets from Mary Ann, one of the leaders of the Association of Zambian Women in Mining.  Difficulties with shipping, technology, and quality-control at the polishing factory in Zambia continue to plague us, but we are determined to push through.  Now in 2024, our fingers are crossed for our fourth attempt.  Once we can claim full success in Zambia, we can turn our attention back to Malawi.

In the meantime, Moonrise Crystals has also successfully done business with the Tanzanian Women Miner’s Association, beginning with some beautiful Moonstones, mined by Selma.  Energetically, these gems are amazing! Moonstone is a stone of the goddess and feminine energies.  These Moonstones have only ever been in women’s hands, from the miner, to market partner, and then to Moonrise Crystals.

Market partners are a critical parts of building ethical supply chains.  They act as translators, facilitate payments and paperwork, and help the miners become more financial savvy.  Market partners work in mining communities on multiple levels,  For example, the Tanzanian Women Miner’s Association partners with PACT, a global nonprofit that offers a financial literacy program called WORTH.  This is a critical part of the solution. When women are financial literate it has a tremendously positive impact on their own lives and keeps more wealth within their local communities.

Salma Financial Literacy Moyo Gems

Selma (far left) holding her WORTH financial literacy program certificate

Moonrise Crystals has also started doing business with a woman miner in Finland.  She doesn’t own a mine, instead she legally prospects.  Her situation is very different, yet equally informative.  We’ve watched her start and fail and then try again. We have also began a friendship with a woman mine owner in the United States.  Her situation is very different than the mine owners in Africa or the prospector in Finland.  Her stories about protecting her Wyoming Ruby claim have been eye-opening.

In all these relationships, two things are very clear.  The first is that no one person or organization can solve all the problems.  It’s going to take many people, many years, and we have to work together.  The second is that it takes tremendous grit and determination in order to succeed. There will be inglorious beginnings full of trials and errors.  We cannot let this discourage us from trying again.

Thank you for supporting Moonrise Crystals.  Without your purchases, our work would not be possible.  Goddess blessings to you all!

Shop Woman Mined Crystals

See our Spring 2024 collection with beautiful stones mined in Finland, Tanzania, and Zambia

References:

[1] Weldegiorgis, Fitsum, Lynda Lawson, and Hannelore Verbrugge. “Women in Artisanal and Small Scale Mining: Challenges and Opportunities for Greater Participation.” A report prepared by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (IGF), 2018.  https://www.iisd.org/system/files/publications/igf-women-asm-challenges-opportunities-participation.pdf

[2] Ibid

[3] Ramdoo, Isabelle et al. “Women and The Mine of the Future: Global Report”  A report prepared by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (IGF), 2023. https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-04/women-mine-of-the-future-global-report.pdf

[4] PACT. “ASM Formalization”  Pactworld.org.  https://www.pactworld.org/our-expertise/mining/asm-formalization/

[5] Almodovar-Reteguis, Nayda. “Where in the world do women still face legal barriers to own and administer assets?” World Bank.  June 18, 2019. https://blogs.worldbank.org/en/opendata/where-world-do-women-still-face-legal-barriers-own-and-administer-assets/

[6] United Nations Economic Commission for Africa / African Minerals Development Centre: ASM Country Profile, “Madagascar,” United National Economic Commission for Africa https://knowledge.uneca.org/asm/Madagascar