What is Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM)?

ASM is an important and increasingly popular livelihood for tens of millions of people around the world. ASM is often part of a diverse livelihood strategy at the individual and household level that builds resilience and enables families to better cope with seasonal and extraordinary stresses (like famine, war, sickness or other personal circumstances. The ASM definition changes by country, but generally it is mining that is conducted with rudimentary tools such as picks and shovels or simple machinery, usually informally or semi-formally by individuals or small groups of people on a subsistence basis. ASM takes place all over the world, from Suriname to Liberia to Mongolia to Greenland.

What are Protected Areas and Critical Ecosystems ("PACE")?

The ASM PACE Programme defines 'protected areas' as areas of high biodiversity value established as protected for the sake of biodiversity conservation either under international conventions (e.g. World Heritage Sites, RAMSAR sites, Areas of Zero Extinction), or by national, regional or local governments for at least partly biodiversity conservation (such as nature reserves or national parks).

We define 'critical ecosystem' as a site that is neither a protected area nor a WWF priority landscape, but is in one of the 'Global 200 Priority Ecoregions' as described by Olson & Dinerstein, 2002.

Not eligible as a "PACE" location: The ecosystem is not in a protected area, a WWF priority landscape or a Global 200 Priority Ecoregion.

Why is ASM-PACE Programme only focused on ASM occurring in protected areas/critical ecosystems?

There are many organizations working on ASM related issues, but ASM's growth into protected areas is a growing challenge with few known practical solutions. These areas are protected because of unique flora and fauna within them, because these areas are critical for large-scale ecological processes, or because they are simply the last remaining area of that type on Earth.

These areas are under growing threat because high mineral prices – especially of precious minerals — are attracting more people into artisanal mining. Protected areas are seen as 'virgin' with potential rich pickings or may have been delimited over places where mining took place historically. Also, having more companies exploring for minerals often leads to the displacement of ASM from existing sites. This high interest to mine within protected areas is combined with production techniques and associated livelihoods common to ASM that can wreak havoc in sensitive ecosystems, such as mercury use, bushmeat hunting, charcoal making, timbering for mine and settlement construction, pollution from human waste, etc. As a result, miners, government leaders, and conservation authorities can have tense relations.

Therefore the challenge of the ASM-PACE Programme is to balance economic realities with the need to protect some of the most important forests and precious ecosystems on earth and find win-win solutions that can work in practice.

Why not just evict artisanal miners from protected areas? They are illegal!

Experience has shown that simply trying to stop the mining via eviction does tend not to work; after a short period of time the miners will simply return and in many countries governments do not have the resources to fund security strategies to sustain the eviction.  In addition evictions may involve violations of miners' human rights.

The ASM-PACE Programme is oriented at finding practicable, workable and sustainable solutions that will manage the impacts of ASM, produce concrete improvements in sensitive ecosystems, and improve relations between different stakeholder groups that are traditionally opposed (e.g. ASM and conservation organisations; ASM and local communities; ASM and Large Scale Miners; ASM and conservation authorities) as ASM become partners in conservation through carefully planned and coordinated engagement.

I have direct experience in this area. How can I share my experience with you?

The ASM-PACE Programme welcomes your comments and contributions.  Complete the form on the Contact Us page in order to get in touch with us.

Does the ASM-PACE Programme encourage artisanal miners to mine in protected areas?

No. The ASM-PACE Programme is constantly examining a variety of solutions. These could involve getting miners out of the protected area – the optimal conservation solution. However, in some cases the more realistic solution could include finding ways to help them mine as responsibly as possible within the park through a negotiated situation. The management options available depend on the geology of the site, local laws, what has worked before, the political economy of the situation, available financing for complementary strategies, among a host of other factors. Therefore, it is critical that 'copy and paste' approaches are avoided due to vastly different conditions in each place. Accordingly, ASM-PACE seeks a variety of solutions to this complex issue. Please contact ASM-PACE if you are a conservation stakeholder facing this issue.

It is critical to state that the issues the Programme aims to tackle cannot be ignored. If these issues are not managed constructively, they will escalate to further developmental and environmental problems.

Are miners involved in this process?

Absolutely. One of the core tenets of this project is to work with miners and their communities -- rather than in opposition-- to design sustainable solutions.

This means finding ways to allow people to benefit from their resources without undermining the resiliency of the ecosystem. To do this, the ASM-PACE Programme uses participatory methods and will have extensive consultation with miners and their communities to identify and agree on problems and ensure solutions will work in practice. Without miner participation and understanding their constraints, motivations, and potential incentives, any intervention is doomed to fail.

For more information read the Methodological Toolkit on our Projects page.

Is a win-win solution for ASM and the environment possible?

Yes. There are already models in existence from which the ASM-PACE programme seeks to learn. We have documented eight management approaches for ASM in PACE contexts. One of the most famous examples and continued successes was achieved by a pioneering organisation in Colombia. The Certified GreenGoldTM (Oro Verde) programme in Colombia's Chocó Tropical Rainforest was created by Amigos del Choco and its partners was a pioneer in FairMined gold.

Working in close consultation with Afro-Colombian miners in one of the most critical ecosystems on Earth, they have used market-based solutions to incentivise some of the greenest techniques available in mining and harness mining as a positive force for traditional communities. FairTrade & FairMined solutions represent one of several management solutions available but possible solutions are context-dependent (e.g. geology, law, rule of law, available partners, etc.) and this type of solution may not be immediately available everywhere but it does set an example of what is possible.

If you want to learn more about the ASM-PACE Programme leave your details in the contact us page and we will keep you up-to-date with various programme information.

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