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Small-Scale Mining

Artisanal or Small-Scale Mining is largely a poverty driven activity, typically practiced in the poorest and most remote rural areas of a country by a largely itinerant, poorly educated populace with little other employment alternatives. In looking to provide a forum for a coordinated approach to assessing and addressing problems and needs of small scale miners, the World Bank Group participates in the organization Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM).

Activities of artisanal and small scale miners have substantially increased over the last years, in particular in many Asian countries following the financial crises that drove many poor, in particular women and children, into artisanal mining. Today, an estimated 13 million people in about 30 countries across the world are small scale/artisanal miners, with about 80 million to 100 million people depending on such mining for their livelihood. Miners and their families expose themselves to harsh working conditions for minimal income in a high risk context, endangering their health as well as often the surrounding environment. In areas where miners are invading the lands of indigenous or tribal peoples, there can be very serious cultural conflicts, bordering on cultural warfare, also given environmental degradation and diseases brought to these regions by the miners. Meanwhile, much of the actual economic potential is lost due to the absence of a legal or fiscal framework for Small-Scale Mining and due to rudimentary production, processing and marketing techniques. Public or private services to provide essential health care and education typically do not exist

Toward an integrated solution

In 1995, the World Bank hosted a seminal meeting on small scale and artisanal mining, including representatives from 25 countries. One of the key conclusions of this conference was the need for integrated solutions to the problems of the sector and improved cooperation between the various institutions. Further meetings respectively convened by UNIDO and ILO involving bi/multilateral institutions reiterated the need for a coordinated approach towards the artisanal and Small-Scale Mining if significant progress to be made.

In response to this, the World Bank developed a proposal to establish a Consultative Group for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (CASM). The goal of this proposal is to establish a forum that would provide a coordinated approach to assessing and addressing some of the problems with this subsector as opposed to a piece-meal approach. CASM would be responsible for developing policy guidelines, providing advice, disseminating best practices and experiences, raising funds and project/program implementation. It would examine and fund proposals for assistance to the artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) sectors according to pre-established criteria.

The activities proposed would: (i) help miners and their families to improve their health and living conditions by introducing and investing in more appropriate environmentally responsible and safe mining techniques; (ii) give miners and their families the opportunity to increase their incomes from mining to above-subsistence levels by forming cooperatives and using more advanced mining techniques; (iii) decrease environmental and health risks imposed by Small-Scale Mining on surrounding communities by introducing more environmentally friendly techniques; and (iv) help protect surrounding communities, in particular indigenous people, from illegal mining activities by ensuring property rights and mining rights; (v) create conditions to enable ASM development to contribute to a wider regional development program; (vi) accelerate the regularization of ASM sector (vii) reduce tensions between the large mine sector and the ASM sector

In September 1999, a two day forum was held bringing together bi- and multi-lateral donors, private companies, NGOs, and knowledgeable experts to explore the possibility of establishing this Consultative Group on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining. In principle the main components of this proposal was agreed on, with some suggested changes to the original proposal. The Bank is currently working on these changes, and in consultation with the participants will discuss the next steps in order to convert this proposal into a reality.

Additionally some of the Mining Department's technical assistance lending programs, such as Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mozambique, have a Small-Scale Mining component that specifically deals with some of issues and problems confronting the sector.

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