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Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining

This form of mining occurs in approximately 80 countries worldwide. There are approximately 100 million artisanal miners globally. Artisanal and small-scale production supply accounts for 80% of global sapphire, 20% of gold mining and up to 20% of diamond mining. It is widespread in developing countries in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Central and South America.

Though the informal nature and overall un-mechanized operation generally result in low productivity, the sector represents an important livelihood and income source for the poverty affected local population. It ensures the existence for millions of families in rural areas of developing countries. About 100 million people – workers and their families - depend on artisanal mining compared to about 7 million people worldwide in industrial mining.

National governments are becoming increasingly aware of the sector’s importance as both a means of poverty alleviation and a generator of national income. In recent years, a number of governments have formally recognized the sector and attempted to provide facilitating environments.

Despite these changes, the implementation of legislation at a local level remains problematic and many miners do not have faith in the ability or commitment of their governments to provide assistance. The international development community has been concerned with the artisanal and small-scale mining sector for the past 30 years. As understanding of ASM has grown, the support approaches have changed.

Mining Formalization

The work of World Bank-managed Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) and its partners over the last decade helped in generating a perceptible increase in national governments country demands for artisanal mining technical assistance programs. Since the closure of the Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) program, the World Bank, primarily through its Oil, Gas and Mining division has continued its work on artisanal mining.

The agenda includes the seven country technical assistance projects (Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Ghana, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, and Ethiopia) but also new efforts to build linkages with other World Bank departments and outside agencies.

Other emerging partnership areas will include private sector partnerships, examining the contribution made by artisanal mining in fragile countries, and the status and protection of women in such environments. In addition, the International Finance Corporation is supporting a pilot to assist mining companies to evolve an artisanal mining strategy to manage and mitigate the risks potentially associated with their activities. The key focus is to identify opportunities to improve the development impact of mining company projects. 


The Minerals and Mining Act of Ghana defines small-scale gold mining operation as the mining of gold by any effective and efficient method that does not involve substantial expenditure by an individual or group of persons not exceeding nine in number or by a co-operative society made up of 10 or more persons.

Small-scale mining is recognized as a major contributor to national income and a pillar for poverty reduction in developing countries. Small-scale mining of minerals such as gold and diamond has provided employment for thousands of Ghanaians, especially indigenes of SSM communities, and has made significant contributions to the foreign exchange earnings of the country.

In 2014, the sector produced 1.49 million ounces of gold representing 34.3% of Ghana's total gold output. The sector has also helped in stemming rural-urban migration and provided raw materials for both foreign and local mineral industries. As a result, SSM is recognized by the government as a cornerstone of a multimillion-dollar industrial sector, the products, and sales from which are controlled.

The Minerals Commission of Ghana, which is responsible for assisting the Minister of Mines with small-scale licensing procedures and monitoring of operations, established seven small-scale mining district centres (in Tarkwa, Dunkwa-on-Offin, Bibiani, Asankrangwa, Assin Fosu, Akim Oda, and Bolgatanga) to provide technical extension services to the miners and improve supervision.​

The government on Thursday 16th August 2018 had announced a roadmap for the lifting of the ban on small-mining. This came after an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining was constituted in March 2017 placed a ban on all small-scale mining. This decision of the government to lift the ban on small-scale mining should meet the value for chain activities to ensure the sustainability of small-scale mining and the development of communities.


The Indonesian Mineral and Coal Law (2009) allows Indonesian citizens, as individuals or cooperatives to apply for a license to conduct small-scale mining in designated areas. A mechanism of licensing, permitting, management and control of small-scale mining is not clearly stipulated in the law.

However, the management and control of SSM are fully decentralized to regional governments. The decentralization of authority is recognized as a significant contributor to unintended growth in illegal small-scale mining in Indonesia. As a signatory to the 2013 UNEP International Treaty on Mercury, the use of mercury in mining is illegal in Indonesia.


The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered the suspension of all small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in the wake of typhoon-induced landslides that left dozens of people dead. Congress must repeal the Philippine Mining Act to put an end to mining, which has caused environmental destruction and triggered deadly landslides, President Duterte said.


One thing that is clear about illegal Small-Scale Mining is the destruction it poses on the forest and its lack of restoration of the mined-out areas. A rehabilitation bond is a financial surety which must be provided by the small-scale miners to ensure that they restore the forest in the mined-out area, otherwise the money would be given to the Forestry Commission to embark on re-afforestation.

The system has been in place with the Large-Scale Mining companies and it should be judiciously adopted in the Small Scale Mining companies to protect the forest from degradation from rapid deforestation. 

In addition, attempts should be made to obtain some revenue (royalty) from all small-scale miners by the efficient registration of these mining companies. When this is done, it would go down to impact the scaling down of the illegal small-Scale Mining. 


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