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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

Supporting ASM Guidance

The challenges encountered in small-scale mining can only be overcome through joint efforts by donor and developing countries. The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) is an important partner for German development cooperation in the extractives sector. The Sector Programme Extractives and Development  was providing financial support and assisted with content as the IGF prepared a guide for governments, entitled Managing Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM Guidance), on how best to deal with the issues of small-scale mining from a development perspective.

Developing policies and strategies for the designation and management of ASM zones

Within the Sector Programme, policies and strategies for the identification, designation and management of ASM zones are being developed. The aim is to equip government institutions in partner countries with practical tools to support planning, regulation and ongoing formalisation of the ASM segment.

These policies and strategies were presented at the IGF’s annual general meeting in Geneva in 2016 and were discussed at the INDABA Sustainability Round Tables sponsored by the IGF in Cape Town in January 2017. A guide, Concepts and Strategies for the Designation and Management of ASM Zones, was subsequently published in March 2017.

Through pilot projects, partner countries receive support with the designation and regulation of ASM zones. The Dominican Republic became the first pilot country following a request by its government. Small-scale mining has been identified as an important factor in this country’s economic and social development, so improving sector governance all along the value chain from extraction to export is a key goal.


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