Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: Mapping the South African Ecosystem

The Government of South Africa is contemplating policy reforms that will advance its transformation agenda in the mining sector. Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) is recognised as a potential pathway for development. However, the current legal and regulatory provisions for ASM require substantial improvements and coordination in order to catalyse this latent potential.

In 2019, CIRDI in collaboration with Mining Dialogues 360 – a South Africa based non-profit – undertook a “status quo”, primarily desk-based assessment of the ASM sector. The study is intended to provide a systematic, evidence-based set of data-points that can inform a more comprehensive policy review process that positively facilitates sustainable and responsible ASM formalisation over the long term.

This paper focuses on five “ASM ecosystems”, within which a series of key data points are mapped:

  • Tiger’s-eye mining around Prieska in the Northern Cape province
  • Diamond mining near Kimberley in the Northern Cape province
  • Gold mining at Khutong outside Carletonville in Gauteng province
  • Chrome mining near Burgersfort in Limpopo province
  • Sandstone mining near Phuthaditjhaba in Free State province

Geologic and demographic data on these ecosystems is supplemented by a media analysis and the use of remote sensing data in order to capture a holistic view of the reality of the sector from environmental, social and governance frames. With a view to data transparency, the findings pertaining to these five ASM ecosystems are presented through a web-based data visualization, which could be substantially expanded to include real-time mine-site level data, that can also be triangulated with data held within designated government departments responsible for monitoring and compliance oversight of the ASM sector.

This report concludes that policy and legislative reform and the reformulation of institutional support to the ASM sector is necessary so as to address the multiplicity of challenges that sector stakeholders face. However, without a clear evidence base upon which to base these reforms, efforts to reformulate new policy, legislation and strategy cannot succeed. Closing the data gap is a necessary condition for successful planning for ASM development.

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