Firearms are among the most common causes of unnatural deaths, second only to traffic accidents. It is estimated that over 500 people worldwide are killed every day, and 2000 more are injured by gunshots. That is nearly 200 deaths annually (data from 2021). If the trend continues unabated, by 2030 the number of deaths caused by firearms could amount to 660 thousand, informs the website of the Humanium Metal initiative.
In the United States, firearms have already become the main cause of death of children and teenagers. According to data gathered by US Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020 firearms took the lives of 4,368 children and youngsters under 19 years of age. The number of minors killed in traffic accidents that year was 4,036.
Many of these deaths could have been avoided if access to illegal firearms was limited. Unfortunately, a lion’s share of guns acquired by dealers and criminal organizations comes from governments, producers, and legal gun owners. This is why societies are losing faith in the efforts of the police, such as amnesty offered to firearm owners in exchange for handing over their guns to government institutions. The only sure way to permanently remove firearms from illicit circulation is to destroy them.
A Watch Made of a Kalashnikov
In 2016 Johan Pihl and Peter Brune from the non-profit organization IM Swedish Development Partner launched the Humanium Metal project aimed at reducing the number of illegal firearms in the world and helping the victims of armed violence. Its activists are urging governments, artists, NGOs, companies, and consumers to work together towards peace and security.
Pihl and Brune agreed that the first step should be destroying illegal weaponry. The next stage is using the material acquired by recycling it to produce items that could serve people in peacetime and help the victims. The alloy made of melted firearms was named Humanium Metal.
The income generated by its sale is used for financing firearms destruction programs, introducing changes to legislation, creating “no guns allowed” spaces, and caring for and educating individuals who suffered due to armed violence. The project also offers financial support to initiatives that empower young people to choose non-violent paths of development. No less important is the discussion that ensues in connection with initiatives of gun destruction and the promotion of Humanium Metal products, and is centered around the consequences of the firearms’ accessibility.
Each item made of Humanium Metal means fewer guns on the streets and potentially fewer casualties. The list of products includes watches, jewelry, bracelets, pens, designer items, numismatic coins, and works of art.
The first weapon destruction program took place in November 2016 in El Salvador where 1 ton of Humanium Metal was produced. In 2020 Zambia became the first African country to join the Humanium Metal program; in 2022 illegal firearms were destroyed in Maine in the USA. “Until today, we have turned about 12,000 illegal firearms into peace metal,” informs the humanium-metal.com website.
The initiative has quickly gained the recognition of such personalities as the Dalai Lama, Hans Blix, and John Kerry. In the United States it is endorsed, among others, by Leonardo DiCaprio, Forest Whitaker, and Julianne Moore.
“The coin industry has a history that spans over 2600 years. Coins and medals are usually made out of gold, silver, and copper, soft materials which is easy to emboss. Humanium Metal, on the other hand, has a ligation which makes it more solid and therefore harder to work with. It required some technical development to finalize the idea and bring the medal into production. This is the first time in our 300 years long history that we are introducing new material,” says Ståle Løkken of the Norwegian Mint, which is the first in the world to make numismatic coins and medals of Humanium Metal for Samlerhuset.
Humanium Metal is thought to be the most valuable metal in the world, since every ounce represents a weapon that can no longer be used to harm people.
A Medal of Melted Guns
Peace is one of the greatest dreams of the modern world. To commemorate those who have laid their lives fighting for it, the Norwegian Mint created a medal that combines several important ideals: the pursuit of peace, the right to decent work, and the protection of the environment. The medal was also minted of Humanium Metal.
The reverse of the “Peace” medal features a depiction of the Roman goddess Pax, and the word “peace” inscribed in several languages (including Polish). The averse is decorated with one of the most recognizable symbols of peace: a dove holding an olive branch in its beak. The medal weighs 17 grams and measures 38.6 mm in diameter.
The “Peace” medal is additionally plated with 24 carat Fairmined gold, extracted by small artisanal companies in the poorest regions of the world. The mines receive a special bonus for their gold, which allows them to introduce international labor standards, support local communities (e.g. offer aid to hospitals, schools) and maintain sustainable development that protects the environment.
The Fairmined Gold Certificate is a guarantee that the gold used to plate a coin or a medal is of responsible origin.
The “Peace” medal was made in the Norwegian Mint, where the Peace Nobel Prize is manufactured. “Coins and medals are usually made out of gold, silver, and copper, soft materials which is easy to emboss. Humanium Metal, on the other hand, has a ligation which makes it more solid and therefore harder to work with. It required some technical development to finalize the idea and bring the medal into production. This is the first time in our 300 years long history that we are introducing new material,” says Ståle Løkken, the director of the Mint.
Only 2022 copies of the numismatic coin exist, and the Samlerhuset is their sole official distributor.
Humanium Metal is a part of a broader strategy developed by IM Swedish Development Partner to help implement the UN 2030 Agenda, particularly in terms of promoting peace, justice and strong institutions, in which the issue of reducing the illicit flow of firearms is considered of key importance. Partners of the Humanium Metal initiative include: the United Nations Development Programme, the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the Foundation of Survivors and Disabled Persons in El Salvador, Malmö University, the International Action Network on Small Arms, Triwa, and the Samlerhuset Group, of which the Polish National Treasury is a member.
The Humanium Metal initiative cooperates with more than a hundred institutions working towards peace and human rights recognition.
Here you can visit the Samlerhuset website.
Learn more about the Humanium Metal project.