Artisanal and Small-scale Mining

The Challenge

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) involves rudimentary and subsistence mining practices in 80 countries around the world. The ASM sector provides an essential livelihood for 100 million miners globally but frequently operates on the margins of the formal mining sector in remote regions without basic social or environmental safeguards.

ASM produces approximately 20% of the world’s gold and up to 85% of certain gemstones. However, surrounding communities often suffer adverse impacts, especially those in conflict-affected and fragile states. Associated issues include income inequality, human rights abuses, gender-based violence, and environmental degradation. In addition, weak institutions, poor governance structures and limited understanding of the realities for miners and their families create challenges for national governments. The artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector is particularly threatening to human health and the environment due to its reliance on mercury in amalgamation processes. ASGM represents the largest source of anthropogenic emissions of mercury, which is a pollutant of global concern.

The Opportunity

If formalized with sound governance structures that consider the unique aspects of this sector, ASM has the potential to drive and diversify local economic growth, create jobs and reduce extreme poverty. A priority area for CIRDI is to assist national governments to reduce mercury use and meet their obligations to the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

CIRDI’s Approach

We believe that education is an essential entry point for better organization of the sector, which will ultimately support the political process of formalization. We work with our in-country partners to offer education and training for governments and affected populations with the goal of transforming artisanal mining into a safe, secure and sustainable form of economic activity, capable of generating shared local prosperity.