Artisanal and small-scale mining in Africa: the poor relation
K. P. C. J. D’souza, 2005. "Artisanal and small-scale mining in Africa: the poor relation", Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World, B. R. Marker, M. G. Petterson, F. McEvoy, M. H. Stephenson
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The artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector in sub-Saharan Africa is a sector usually associated with conflict minerals, fatal diseases, smuggling, criminal activity and civil war. Throughout Africa the ASM sector is unfortunately viewed in a negative and distorted manner with little appreciation or understanding for the realities and hardship of miners, their families and communities. However, the sector is burdened and plagued with issues ranging from child labour, gender inequality, the spread of HIV/AIDS, environmental devastation, poor health and safety, migrant workers, lack of capital and fair markets, and conflict with the private large-scale mining sector. The paper discusses the many overlapping and complex drivers, challenges, constraints and issues that characterize the sector and considers the potential solutions through the adoption of appropriate best practice, hopefully leading to sustainable livelihoods in the ASM sector and overall poverty alleviation. Key issues, such as institutional capacity, governance, assistance schemes, legislation, miners’ organizations, gender mainstreaming, child labour, health and safety, environmental protection, mineral trading and marketing, adding value, finance and credit, and the co-existence with the large-scale mining sector are all detailed. The paper also highlights ideas of what individual countries can do to help formalize and provide assistance to this vulnerable sector. Some of what is discussed concurs with the findings of the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) Project, the multi-donor Communities & Small-Scale Mining (CASM) initiative, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) – Yaoundé Seminar on ASM in Africa, and most recently the African Mining Partnership (AMP). The bulk of this paper, however, has come from the experience gained by the author while managing and working on numerous projects commissioned by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank, United Nations, various African Governments, private mining companies and NGOs in over 20 African countries.
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Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World
The sustainable development of minerals, which are non-renewable resources, is a major challenge in today’s world. In this regard the true definition of sustainability’ is a debating point in itself: can such a concept exist with respect to non-renewable resources? Perhaps the ideal sustainability model is one that minimizes negative environmental impact and maximizes benefits to society, the economy and regional/national development. Developed and near-developed economies rely for commodity supplies on developing countries where major mining operations are often a mainstay of the domestic economy. Limited environmental regulation and low wages lead to charges of exploitation. Also, large numbers of people have no alternative to living by informal, often dangerous, ‘artisanal’ mining. This Special Publication gives examples from developing countries at all scales of mineral extraction. The volume reviews environmental, economic, health and social problems and highlights the need to solve these before sustainability can be achieved. The better solutions require mutual understanding, through full involvement of all stakeholders, education, training and investment so that small-scale ansd artisinal mines can grow into well-managed operations. At larger scales, most major interantional mining companies have now inoproved their practices and are monitoring their progress, although there is no room for complacency in this rapidly changing area.