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Social and ecological aspects

Artisanal and small-scale mining

Small-scale mining in Mozambique

In many developing and emerging countries, mineral resources are extracted not only using industrial mining methods but also by artisanal or small-scale mining. This entails extracting mineral resources from deposits with low ore content using simple means with little machinery. Processing is often inefficient, involving the use of environmentally harmful and toxic chemicals. Small-scale miners rarely have a contract of employment or a prospecting licence. Their work is frequently self-organised or under the control of local patrons, but also illegal. Mining usually takes place under terrible working conditions, with no regard for labour rights, children’s rights or women’s rights. It is quite common for small-scale miners to earn just a few dollars a day, while the profits go to middlemen and local patrons. The causes of these problems are weak state institutions, inadequate legal frameworks and a lack of regulation in the sector.

Despite these risks and problems, there is considerable development potential in this sector. Small-scale mining is labour-intensive. It is thought that between 15 and 30 million people are engaged in small-scale mining in more than 30 countries around the globe. The World Bank estimates that worldwide the lives of 80 to 100 million people are dependent on small-scale mining. Small-scale mining is thus an important source of income that makes a crucial contribution to securing the livelihoods of the local population.

Small-scale mining as an opportunity for development – how Extractives and Development plays its part

Together with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Extractives and Development programme organised an international dialogue process on artisanal and small-scale mining. In April 2015, participants from around the world gathered for the first time for a ‘visioning workshop’ in London to discuss the challenges, problems and potentials of the sector and to define what is needed to instigate a global multi-stakeholder process.

 The sector programme also supports an international dialogue and learning process to identify and disseminate sustainable approaches. In addition, the programme is currently holding talks with various partner programmes in Africa with the aim of starting national dialogue processes. As well as that, Extractives and Development is working with IIED to develop a set of instruments for conducting national stakeholder dialogues and is carrying out a study on the social and economic potential of the small-scale mining sector.

The challenges encountered in small-scale mining can only be overcome through joint efforts by donor countries and developing countries. The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) is an important partner for German development cooperation in the extractive sector. The Extractives and Development programme is assisting the IGF financially and with the content as it prepares an Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Guidance (ASM Guidance), a guide for governments on how best to deal with the issues of small-scale mining with a focus on development.


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