Artisanal and Small-scale Mining: Challenges and Opportunities
In many parts of the world, artisanal or small-scale mining (ASM) activities are at least as important as large-scale mining activities, particularly in terms of the numbers of people employed. ASM can play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and rural development; most of those involved are poor and mining represents the most promising, if not the only, income opportunity available. However, the sector is perhaps better known for its high environmental costs and poor health and safety record. Many continue to view it as dirty, unprofitable and fundamentally unsustainable.
Whether or not the sector is a net contributor to sustainable development, the fact remains that small-scale and artisanal mining activities will continue for at least as long as poverty makes them necessary. It is therefore essential to maximize the benefits brought and enabled by small-scale mining, and to mitigate the costs.
According to a recent survey carried out by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and MMSD, at present around 13 million people work directly in small mines throughout the world, most of them in developing countries. A large percentage of these miners are women and, regretfully, children.
Now, the international development community has turned its attention to the ASM sector. In the last 10 years international donor agencies have recognized the close relationship between ASM and poverty. Accordingly, the sector is gaining more attention. ASM is now on the agendas of many national governments, and of bilateral and multilateral donor organizations, and assistance programmes have been or are being carried out. CASM (Community and Small-Scale Mining – www.casmsite.org) is an initiative of the World Bank and is a valuable instrument for donor coordination, experience and information exchange and for channelling funds. There have also recently been interesting experiences in the relationship between large and small mines.
This report is a snapshot that provides an overview of the ASM sector and describes its social, environmental and economic issues. This report is based on:
- Twelve new studies from selected countries commissioned by MMSD (Bolivia, Peru, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines)
- Bibliographic research
- Interviews with people active in the field
- MMSD Workshop on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, 19–20 November 2001 (see www.iied.org/mmsd)
- The authors’ experiences — especially in Latin America and Africa
The report focuses on major issues in ASM and how the sector can best contribute to sustainable development; special focus is given to the different practical experiences and case studies that have been carried out by assistance programmes to the ASM sector during the last ten years.
The second part of the report deals with the different definitions and general problems of the sector. The third part presents a brief historical review of the changes in issues and priorities regarding ASM development policy in the last 30 years. The next section summarizes the country studies and the workshop, and identifies regional differences and common issues. The next section discusses the conditions of livelihoods in ASM communities and the contribution of ASM to sustainable development. A later section addresses traditional issues of ASM like policy, law, organization, the manufacture of value-added products, environment, health and safety, technology and finance. The next section deals with aspects of mineral economics relevant ASM. The penultimate section gives special attention to case studies showing the relationship between large mining operation and ASM. Finally, new trends such as common environmental solutions, networking on the internet, and fair-traded ASM products are highlighted, again with case studies.