What is Artisanal & Small-Scale Mining?

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A common definition for the Artisanal & Small-Scale Mining sector has not been adopted as its legal status, defining criteria, and local definitions vary from country to country1.

'Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining' is formal or informal operations with predominantly simplified forms of exploration, extraction, processing, and transportation.

ASM is normally low capital intensive and uses high labor-intensive technology. Artisanal & small-scale mining can include men and women working on an individual basis as well as those working in family groups, in a partnership or as members of cooperatives or other types of legal associations and enterprises involving hundreds or thousands of small-scale miners.

An estimated 20 million people just in DRC (Congo) rely on this sector for income and over 100 million worldwide. The sector produces approximately 80 percent of all sapphires, 25 percent of all tin, 20 percent of all gold, and up to 20 percent of all diamonds.

Artisanal & small-scale mining is often a seasonal occupation, worked in conjunction with farming, with mine output volumes decreasing during harvesting times.

There are various factors that attract people in the artisanal & small-scale mining sector with the main factor being poverty. artisanal & small-scale mining is widely recognized as a poverty-driven activity, capable of alleviating economic hardship and promoting wealth creation in largely rural communities.

While artisanal & small-scale mining can provide a means to generate income to get out of poverty, it can also be a way to trap miners and families in poverty.

This poverty trap is a result of low levels of technology and technical expertise, as well as poor geo-prospecting which can lead to low productivity and recovery of mineral ores, as well as negative environmental and health impacts. Poor health and bad working conditions combined with low returns often lead to a worsening of poverty. Unskilled and without the ability to invest in education or new technology, these people become trapped in poverty and remain in the sector for survival

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