Through its Guest Blog Series, the ASM-PACE Programme invites ASM experts to share their knowledge, experiences and opinions on issues pertaining to ASM, and particularly on ASM in protected areas and critical ecosystems, with the aim to foster continued dialogue, country-specific learning and share best practices on ASM interventions.

The blogs posted on this site do not represent the views of the ASM-PACE Programme, its donors or partners, or the author’s organization, unless otherwise specified.

If you or your organisation works on issues of ASM and wishes to submit a blog on your experiences, please contact us!

An estimated 20 million people in over 80 countries derive their livelihoods from artisanal mining. The growing artisanal mining movement can play a key role in sustainable development of rural communities as it produces 10 percent of the global gold production, 15 to 20 percent of diamonds and 80 percent of coloured gemstones.

In late 2013 I had the chance to undertake artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) field work in the Chocó rainforest of South America under the auspices of Estelle Levin Ltd. (ELL) and the ASM-PACE programme. The project was conducted on behalf of interested conservation stakeholders and focused on profiling the gold mining dynamics in the region and mining’s impacts on this locally and globally-important ecosystem. ELL provided the client with options as to what conservation organizations and their stakeholders could do to reduce mining’s impacts in the region; we considered technical solutions such as how to make mining more efficient and ‘greener’ (ie, less haphazard, wasteful, and with more environmental care), and the social supports necessary given the complex situation in the area. The Chocó rainforest, which includes parts of Colombia and northern Ecuador, is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world but also an area where rule of law is a difficult issue owing to the legacy of insurgency activities, significant illicit cross-border trade, and other issues.

On January 16, 2014 the ‘ASM Impacts on Protected Areas and Critical Ecosystems in Madagascar’ was held in Tana, Madagascar. A key objective of the workshop was to bridge the disconnect between the capital Antananarivo, the policy-making center, and ASM communities dispersed throughout the country. The workshop also provided an opportunity to report the findings and recommendations of ELL’s 2012 ASM-PACE Madagascar Case Study as well as communicate additional research conducted in 2013 as part of the ongoing World Bank/CSRM study on the fiscal and non-fiscal impacts of mining on Madagascar's development.

Stakeholders of the jewellery and precious metals industry recently had the rare opportunity to meet directly with representatives of artisanal and small-scale gold miners. For its Fairtrade Gold roundtable on October 9th[1],  Fairtrade International had invited representatives of current and future Fairtrade certified gold mining organisations[2] to its London offices. In front of stakeholders from across the gold supply chain, the representatives of these small mining businesses gave presentations on their organisations’ histories and their journeys towards certification and sustainability[3].

Monday, 26 August 2013 12:03

Ninja miners and rural change in Mongolia

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I was recently in Mongolia to give a presentation on artisanal mining and conservation for the "Sustainable Artisanal Mining Project" ("SAM") funded by the Swiss and co-implemented with the Mongolian government. I spent some time with the country's thought leaders, international ASM experts, and some of the artisanal miners (the "ninjas") of Mongolia's vast plains.

In July, our latest ASM-PACE report was released, focusing on the ASM of gold and tin – two 'conflict minerals' under the Dodd-Frank Act, Section 1502 – in the Itombwe Reserve in South Kivu, DRC. Our ELL and WWF researchers had to cut their fieldwork short owing to insecurity in the area brought on by the presence of M23 rebels. One cannot look at minerals in DRC and not consider the conflict. We have thus invited Brad Brooks Rubin to submit a blog on conflict minerals in DRC to build on this theme.

Madre de Dios is an Amazon region of Peru where the poverty rates are 8.7% below the average for the country, which means that the people there are typically less poor. Its population is only 0.4% (120,000 people) of the country, its contribution to the GDP of Peru only 0.3% (at constant prices). It is also the third most important gold region in Peru, producing 22 tonnes per annum, being approximately 0.75% of world mined production (2,857 tonnes in 2012). The value of mineral production (about 1.5 billion U.S. dollars), the devastating environmental consequences of the activity, and the ecological importance of the region (there are six protected areas located in Madre de Dios), makes for high tensions and an uncertain future.

Cambodia's north easternmost province is named after two of its distinctive features: Ratanakiri, a combination of the Khmer words for "gem" (Ratana) and "mountain" (Kiri). Characterised by hills, highlands and ample gemstone deposits, the province is also well known for its lush tropical forests and diverse wildlife on one hand, as well as for intense logging and large-scale agricultural plantations on the other.

Since we can all agree that mining is in itself an unsustainable practice (the substances being mined are in finite supply), how then do we use the two terms- mining and sustainability- in the same sentence and in a way that resonates with all stakeholders impacted by this far-reaching industry? And, more specifically, what can junior, mid-tier and larger mining companies do to ensure that they leave a light environmental and social footprint during and in the wake of their projects?

Over the past two to three years there has been a tendency to equate Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM)  with "illegal mining". The term is often used in media, but increasingly also by competent professionals and institutions when referring to ASM in general. This trend is particularly surprising as it tends to ignore that the terms "illegal",  "informal" and "artisanal" are not interchangeable, that many ASM miners have made strong efforts to achieve formalisation, and that risks for informal or illegal activities exist at any scale.

At the Rio + 20 Summit last year UNDP put forward a proposition to embed sustainability concepts into a new Sustainable Human Development Index rather than developing a new set of global sustainability indicators. As someone working with Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASM) and as a believer in the need to radically change the ways in which humans inhabit this planet, the UNDP proposal makes sense to me. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about ecosystems; they will continue to maintain a relative equilibrium with everything happening within them, or collapse if they are pushed beyond their capacities of recovery.

In my work running a conflict diamond project in the Central African Republic, the above proverb is good advice. As a manager who spends too much time in suits not at all suitable to tropical climates, it describes an ethical imperative: don’t pretend to speak about artisanal miners unless you sleep in their villages. As a policy advisor, it describes a methodological imperative: make sure your recommendations come from a thorough understanding of motivations and contexts.

Je suis convaincu que certains experts et collègues voudraient avoir un bref aperçu sur l'expérience vécu au cours de l'accomplissement des enquêtes dans la Reserve Naturelle d'Itombwe au Sud Kivu, une étude de cas réalisée en juillet 2012 par les chercheurs d'Estelle Levin Ltd avec l'appui du bureau WWF CARPO Bukavu. Il faut se souvenir que pendant le mois de juillet, les incursions des forces de M23 et d'autres groupes en armes s'escalaient—mais on élaborera sur ce sujet-là plus-tard.

It has been over a decade since the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) first sounded the alarm about the transboundary nature of mercury pollution, and four years since the nations of the world started negotiating a treaty to tackle this global problem. Finally, this past January, in the wee hours of a snowy morning in Geneva, the 140+ member countries of UNEP finally agreed on the text of an agreement, to be named the Minamata Convention once it is officially signed in that Japanese city in October.