Small scale mining merits large scale examinationPublished by MAC on 2018-01-30
The following article signposts a new report (*) that will surely interest many readers, and communities impacted by small-scale mining (ASM).
The study is as up-to-date as current evidence allows (acknowledging the data deficiences), and rigorously addresses practises in individual states (Indonesia, Philippines, Ghana get good treatment). There's a methodical examination of the environmental and health hazards of ASM technologies commonly employed in some countries (mercury and cyanide - often combined together - come in for a justifable battering).
Where the article below falls down is by not quoting the sections of the report dealing with the "interface" between small-scale miners and large-scale (mainly corporate) ones (LSM), and the failures of governments to recognise or regulate the often-huge imbalance in power between the two parties.
Above all, while the report itself veers close to examining the requirement of endorsing and supporting the right of ASM workers in communities (a large proportion of which are Indigenous) to enjoy the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) - including having geological and other information on which to make their decisions (such as accessible extraction methods) - it doesn't unequivocally support it; settling instead for an espousal of "consultation" and "engagement" between various participants.
Here are some extracts from parts of the report which do spotlight these issues:
"The instances where ASM and LSM activities meet have usually been
underscored by tension and conflict over land, access and control of
mineral deposits as well as the right to mine. In many countries the
mineral governance framework favours foreign direct investment in the LSM
sector over local ASM, leading to significant power imbalances and clashes
"LSM companies not only have a dominant position in the political and
legal spheres, but also in terms of their significant financial resources
and access to geological knowledge and sophisticated mining technologies,
giving them a much greater advantage over ASM when competing for the same
"Often, extensive mining concessions are given over to LSM companies
without communities being informed or consulted. This leads to LSM
companies essentially arriving overnight and dispossessing informal
small-scale miners of claims they believe to be rightfully theirs through
customary land tenure systems and traditional laws—despite not having a
permit or licence to mine under statutory law. This can create significant
tension and conflict if the community and miners are not actively and
meaningfully engaged prior to the start of large-scale activities,
especially where force and other methods are used to evict and police
miners and communities. It can also lead to the encroachment of unlicensed
and informal miners onto LSM concessions (Okoh, 2013; Verbrugge, 2017).
"Another area of interaction between the two is when small-scale miners
act as “pathfinders” or “barefoot prospectors.” During the exploration
phase, junior mining companies will often follow small-scale miners in
order to identify and search for potential new claims, only to later evict
them from the site once they have obtained a licence, or place them in
marginal parts of the concession where returns may be low and resources
limited to a few years of mining (Carstens & Hilson, 2009; Luning,
"Fundamentally, what all the challenges and conflict between LSM and ASM
have in common is competition over limited land as well as overlapping
concessions and poorly managed land allocation programs (Siegel & Veiga,
2009). Formalizing the sector as a starting point, addressing power
imbalances and supporting small-small miners to access claims that have
geologically proven reserves, it is argued, would help to improve
relations between LSM and ASM and ameliorate instances of conflict
(Hilson, 2013; Verbrugge, 2017). ..
"DIALOGUE BETWEEN ASM AND LSM
"The process of consultations, information sharing on concessions and
agreements between LSM and ASM should begin in the exploration phase and
include all affected stakeholders. There is also a need for better
information, understanding and awareness of customary and statutory laws
and regulations that affect land titling for small-scale miners.
Governments also need to play a role in creating streamlined dialogue and
communication channels between LSM and ASM. These communication channels
need to outlast changes in ownership and licensing, and help small-scale
miners to have a voice and air their grievances in effective ways that
reduce the potential for conflict (CASM, 2009; McQuilken and Hilson,
"GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEM: MAPPING
Mitchell (2016) argues that precise maps showing (mainly large-scale)
mining concessions in many developing countries can be found either
through Spatial Dimension or in the relevant governmental ministries, and
may help understand overlapping land use.
"However, these are generally not made public — or only accessible by
paying expensive fees — because they are designed to “provide geospatial
information to mining companies, investors and governments to avoid
overlaps with other mining operations and to highlight where there is
space for more mining concessions” (Mitchell, 2016, p. 1118).
"...[There is potential for broader use in resolving disputes over
overlapping claims to land (including ASM) [such as] USAID’s
Mobile Application for Secure Tenure (MAST), which provided training,
support and technology for Tanzanian landholders to map their (World
Bank-promoted) Certificates of Customary Rights of Occupancy using mobile
"Bebbington et al. (2014) also used maps for this purpose in research with
the Clark Graduate School of Geography (Cuba et al., 2014), which
visualizes spatial overlaps between extractive concessions and river
basins, agricultural land use, and protected areas in Peru and Ghana..."
Comment by Nostromo Research, 30 January 2918
* The report can be downloaded at:
Rising mineral prices trigger artisanal and small-scale mining ‘explosion’ — report
22 January 2018
Rising mineral prices and the struggle to earn a living from agriculture have led to an “explosive growth” in global artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in the last few years, a new study published Monday shows.
"Artisanal and small-scale miners produce about 20% of the current global gold supply."
According to the report, produced by Canada’s Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development, an estimated 40.5 million people were directly engaged in ASM last year, up from 30 million in 2014, 13 million in 1999 and 6 million in 1993. Those figures compare to the only 7 million who worked in industrial mining in 2013, it says.
The study found that ASM is considered a significant source of revenue for millions of people in about 80 countries worldwide — mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Oceania, Central and South America — with some 150-million people currently depending on the activity for their livelihoods.
It also shows that ASM’s share of global mineral production is rising, despite the sector’s low productivity.
Artisanal and small-scale operators produce about 20% of the current global gold supply. The industry is also a major source of minerals indispensable for manufacturing popular electronic products like laptops and phones. For example, 26% of the word’s production of tantalum and 25% of global tin output come from small miners.
“For many people in the world’s poorest countries, ASM is the only route out of poverty, or the sole way to boost meagre incomes when there are few job alternatives,” IGF Director Greg Radford. “This report will help our members support the sector’s potential to enhance livelihoods and spur economic development while managing persistent challenges such as improving health and safety and reducing the sector’s environmental footprint.”
As ASM relies on a mostly unskilled workforce using rudimentary tools and techniques, its environmental and health and safety practices tend to be inadequate. In many countries, 70% to 80% of small-scale miners are informal, which underpins the sector’s poor performance and traps the majority of miners and communities in cycles of poverty and exclusion from legal protection and support, the report says.
The experts recommend, among other suggestions, to include small miners’ views and needs in all much-needed formalization processes to effectively monitor and enforce regulation.
The also advise to help the sector access to capital and cleaner technologies.