In Lima in May 2018, André Xavier, Project Manager of CIRDI’s Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) project in Peru, led a workshop and presented research aimed at raising awareness among government employees about the issues related to artisanal mining and gender.
Women often bear disproportionate risks related to resource development and are more greatly affected than men by its impacts. Typically, pallaqueras (women miners) are also responsible for their households and families. They carry out domestic work in particularly harsh conditions: without water or sewage networks and with only a few hours of electricity each day. This is a good example of why, gender equity is integrated into all of CIRDI’s projects. Gender equity means establishing measures that remove the historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from living and working as equals.
Working in Peru provides a good opportunity for CIRDI given that last year a presidential decree (#005-2017-MIMP) directed all ministries in the country’s national and regional governments to create mechanisms to mainstream gender equality in all plans, programs and projects. CIRDI partnered with Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines to host the two-day event that drew over 50 people from the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, and the Presidency of Ministers Council as well as people from civil society and four women artisanal small-scale miners (ASM).
The first day covered concepts of gender and provided an overview of how women are impacted by artisanal mining and the supply chain. On the second day, the four miners from different regions of Peru spoke to the reality of the issues they experience. Participants discussed the challenges and opportunities related to ASM and gender and made recommendations on what changes in legislation and regulation should be taken to close the gender gap.
Ivonne Yupanqui Valderrama, the Director of Gender of Mainstreaming from the Peruvian Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP), found the discussions at the workshop to be particularly valuable as they informed MIMP’s upcoming gender equality plan. The Lima workshop incorporated aspects of a course on gender issues in artisanal and small-scale gold mining that CIRDI developed for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Commission.
“CIRDI has developed its own gender strategy and has done gender assessment at the Ministry of Mines in Colombia so it’s easy to replicate the same methodologies in other places,” André says. “Between now and the end of September we hope to follow up on what we learned in the workshop to work with the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations on how to reduce the gender gap.”
Reducing vulnerability through formalization
“The key role of women in artisanal mining is scavenging minerals of value from the waste rocks that have already been processed,” André explains. “The women don’t have the proper equipment to do that. They are informal in an informal setting, a context that makes them really vulnerable.”
In Peru, the majority of artisanal miners work in abandoned mines or third party-titled concessions, usually in remote areas lacking in education and health services. Peru is formalizing ASM which has led to a growing debate around the idea of coexistence between large mining companies and artisanal miners working in the regions.
“There are synergies that can exist and a few large mining companies are beginning to consider them,” André says. “If there’s not a proper space for artisanal mining, with clear and realistic rules there’s the possibility that artisanal miners will start trespassing, which can lead to conflicts. Large mining companies are interested in formalization to make sure that the places they have the right to mine are not invaded by illegal and unregulated activity.”
One particular arrangement made possible by formalization caught André’s attention: “One small mine was formalized and they created a space for women to go to the site between six A.M and seven A.M. and collect whatever they can from the waste. They package it and send it to the company’s processing plant that pays the miners back. It’s not fully integrated in the process but there’s some kind of cooperation with the women and this small mining operation that has been formalized.”
Although the work of the pallaqueras is difficult and dangerous, it offers a chance for a better life for them and their families. To ensure that they benefit from the formalization process, the pallaqueras will need equal access to the benefits accorded to men. Gender analysis, already set in motion by Peru’s presidential decree and furthered at CIRDI’s Lima workshop, is key to reducing the risks of resource extraction and ensuring a more equitable distribution of the economic and social benefits it can provide.