By Jennifer-Lynn Archuleta (Published and reprinted with permission from Gems & Gemology, Spring 2017, Vol. 53, No. 1)
At the January 2017 Jewelry Industry Summit held in Tucson, Brian and Kendra Cook (Nature’s Geometry) discussed their efforts to promote sustainable mining in Brazil’s Bahia State. In cooperation with 2,500 miners from the region, the Cooks are developing a collective in Remedios, Novo Horizonte (figure 1). Plans to brand the region’s unique golden rutilated quartz will be supported by a warehouse and cutting facilities, as well as a visitor center. To provide food security for the population, the Cooks also intend to bring organic community farming to the area.
Brian Cook first visited the remote site, located in Chapada Diamantina bordering the Atlantic Rain Forest and the Serrado and Caatinga ecological communities, in 1983 as a geology student. The trip from Salvador, Bahia’s capital, took 2½ days, and he was shown an example of golden rutilated quartz (figure 2), which was relatively rare on the gem market at the time. He later became an exporter of the quartz and helped raise its profile. The Cooks have since become landowners in Remedios, and their property includes a successful golden rutilated quartz mine. Over the years they have visited with their children from their home in Salvador (now a ten-hour journey thanks to improved infrastructure) and become trusted members of the community.
The Cooks have already helped locals formalize their land and mining rights, and now they are turning their attention to other initiatives. Their agenda includes mine safety, certificates of origin to ensure transparency and consumer satisfaction, and teaching cutting and polishing gemstones. They especially seek to empower local women, who already sell rough gems at the local markets, through lapidary and beadmaking training. The community’s proximity to the Atlantic Rain Forest makes it an ideal location for ecotourism, a concept that can be combined with gemological study and buying expeditions.
Brian and Kendra Cook are seeking investors and corporate sponsorship for their community. Learn more about their work at bahiainitiative.com.