An ethical mines should have good safety standards in place to protect workers.
Each country determines its own mining safety standards, depending on the size and purpose of the mine. Official standards may be publicly posted, but information about specific mines is rarely available.
Enforcement of standards varies widely. Studying the local government, and its reputation for corruption, offers important clues about what's happening in reality.
Accurate wage information is rarely available for specific mines. But inferences can still be made by studying the political and economic situation of the country where the mine is located.
Slave labor, including forced child labor, still exists in the mining industry.
However in some cases, mining jobs offer a higher daily wage than other options available to rural and unskilled labor populations.
A Low Environmental Impact
All mines have a negative environmental impact. So the question is, to what degree?
To answer that, it is essential to know where the mine is located, the size of the mine, and the primary purpose of the mine. Depending on these factors, reasonable inferences can be made about the likely environmental impact.
Unfortunately, "Big Mining" lobbyists and most individual mine owners are not financially motivated to be environmentally-conscious.
Three Types of Mining Operations
Artisanal Mines are the smallest and lowest-tech mining operations. It involves an individual or a small group of miners using hand tools to dig out gems and minerals. Many artisanal miners work part-time or seasonally. These tiny mines may be legal or illegal.
Advantage: Artisanal miners have the lowest environmental impact. They also typically have lower safety risks than larger mining operations.
Concern: In developing nations, artisanal miners may work barefoot and without any safety gear. Artisanal miners are often uneducated about their rough stock and can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous buyers.
Small Scale Mine
Small Scale Mines are the middle-range mines, both in size and technology. They are a small business that employs workers year-round. These mines can be above or below ground, and are usually legal operations.
Advantage: Small mines often take miner safety, wages and environmental impact into account. Information may be available about specific mines, making it easier to determine how ethically it is being run.
Concern: Standards vary widely. When mine-specific information is unavailable, some conclusions can be drawn by studying governmental regulations and enforcement practices.
Industrial Mines are the largest and most high-tech operations. They are owned by the mega-corporations of "Big Mining". The mines can be above or below ground. Some of the largest pit mines can be seen from space.
Advantage: Many healing crystals are mining byproducts of industrial-scale mines. These crystals do not have enough monetary value to be mined for their own sake.
Concern: Relatively few industrial mines are truly environmentally responsible. While most industrial mines treat workers well, there are troubling reports of child slave labor in other operations.