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Artisanal Mining

 Artisanal Mining

The AUYAN Team | 22/04/2024

#mining #artisanal #small-scale

Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) operations are performed by over 45 million people, whose 30% are women. Despite its significance for local economies, it poses challenges like environmental degradation and social issues. AUYAN offers remote sensing solutions powered by AI to monitor and manage artisanal mining activities efficiently, promoting sustainability and responsible practices in resource extraction. Despite its significant economic impact, artisanal and small-scale mining often faces scrutiny due to its environmental and social implications. Let's now delve deeper into the intricate world of ASM to better understand its complexities and potential solutions.

What is Artisanal Mining?

Artisanal mining refers to small-scale mining activities carried out using rudimentary techniques and tools, often by individuals or small groups of people. It typically involves the extraction of minerals, precious metals, gemstones, or other valuable resources from the earth's surface or shallow subsurface layers.

Artisanal mining operations are usually characterised by their informality, lack of regulation, and minimal mechanisation. Workers in artisanal mining often use basic tools such as picks, shovels, and pans, and they may rely on manual labour or simple machinery like sluice boxes or suction dredges to extract and process ore.

Artisanal mining is prevalent in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries where formal mining regulations may be lacking or enforcement is weak. While artisanal mining can provide livelihoods for communities and individuals in regions with limited economic opportunities, it is also associated with various social, environmental, and health risks. These risks include environmental degradation, unsafe working conditions, child labour, and conflicts over resource rights. Efforts to address these challenges often involve improving regulation, providing technical assistance, and promoting responsible mining practices within artisanal mining communities.

Where is Artisanal Mining taking place?

Artisanal mining is widespread, with operations spanning approximately 80 countries globally, concentrated mainly in regions of South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. These areas are rich in mineral resources and often host informal mining activities due to various socio-economic factors. AUYAN's initial focus lies in French Guiana, where artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is officially considered illegal. Despite its illegal status, ASM remains prevalent in French Guiana, highlighting the complexities of regulating and managing artisanal mining activities in certain regions. However, numerous other regions of the world have a formalisation of artisanal activities, making them legal and controlled.

Why are artisanal miners important?

Artisanal miners are indispensable to global economies and vital to various industries due to their substantial contribution to mineral extraction. Accounting for about 90% of the global mining workforce, with approximately 45 million individuals directly engaged in artisanal mining activities, and over 150 million people depending on ASM for their livelihood, their importance cannot be overstated. These miners serve as a cornerstone of development in mining communities worldwide. Crucially, ASM supplies a significant portion of essential metals like cobalt, copper, tin, tungsten, tantalum, and iron, which are crucial components in a plethora of products ranging from computers and mobile phones to airplanes and medical devices. Moreover, over 80% of the world's gemstones originate from artisanal mining operations, while other vital materials like sands, clays, stone, salt, and fertilizer also stem from ASM-produced minerals. Given ASM's foundational role in global production networks, its absence would severely limit access to essential materials for global consumers. Furthermore, ASM intersects with all 17 of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, underscoring its integral role in advancing sustainability and socio-economic development worldwide.

How can we make ASM more sustainable?

AUYAN is dedicated to enhancing the sustainability of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) through a multifaceted approach. By providing monitoring services to governments, AUYAN facilitates the meticulous management of artisanal mines, enabling authorities to effectively control environmental impacts such as deforestation and water contamination. Through this monitoring, ASM activities can be regulated to minimize ecological harm while ensuring responsible resource extraction practices. Additionally, AUYAN collaborates closely with local organisations to improve the lives and working conditions of artisanal miners and their communities. This includes initiatives focused on health, safety, education, and economic empowerment, aiming to foster sustainable development and social well-being. Furthermore, AUYAN advocates for the elimination of mercury usage in ASM operations by working with public agencies to implement bans and promote safer alternatives, in alignment with the objectives outlined in the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

What is the Minamata Convention on Mercury?

The Minamata Convention on Mercury stands as a landmark international agreement aimed at addressing the pervasive issue of mercury pollution, particularly concerning its adverse effects on human health and the environment. Named after the Japanese city of Minamata, which witnessed one of the most severe cases of mercury poisoning in the mid-20th century, the convention was adopted in 2013 and entered into force in 2017. It mandates measures to reduce mercury emissions and releases, control mercury use in various products and processes, and promote the environmentally sound management of mercury-containing waste. This comprehensive approach is vital in tackling the global mercury pollution problem. Artisanal gold mining, notorious for its significant mercury usage, stands to benefit greatly from the convention's provisions. Through international cooperation, capacity building, and technology transfer facilitated by the convention, countries can implement measures effectively to mitigate mercury's health and environmental risks. Strongly supported by various United Nations agencies and bodies, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the Minamata Convention plays a crucial role in advancing sustainable development and safeguarding public health on a global scale by promoting safer alternatives and practices.



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