Job creation: the global employment gap has renewed discussions on how jobs are defined and created. Artisanal mining has grown from 10 million in 1999 (ILO, 1999) to potentially upwards of 20-30 million (IIED, 2013). This increase provides a rich policy ground for promoting a good job agenda. This agenda focuses on making available the necessary knowledge and technological resources to increase productivity coupled with provision of social protection and fair labour standards at the workplace.
Rural development: linked to the job agenda is artisanal mining's added value as part of rural livelihood diversification strategies - where it is one avenue of income generation. Research has shown how artisanal mining assists rural households in building more dynamic and resilient livelihood strategies portfolios by, for instance, ‘dovetailing’ artisanal mining and farming economies. Further, it is a stimulus for trade and subsidiary business development around mine sites just as evidence in industrial or larger-scale mining operations. The question of linkages—how mining interplays with other aspects of local economies—and how to promote better integrated rural development strategies to capture mineral benefit distribution is equally an important question linked to artisanal mining.
Renewed bi-lateral partnerships to assist national governments in artisanal 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. The Africa Governance Initiative provides national governments with mining experts to build internal ministry capacity, including issues to do with artisanal mining in such countries as Rwanda.
The International Finance Corporation is extending its business advisory service tools to include an artisanal mining checklist for baseline studies for its investment partners. The Kimberly Process adopted in 2012 an “ASM for Development” framework, to be implemented by its member states. The African Union recognized ASM formalization as one of its six areas of engagement under its 2011 Africa Mining Vision. Other bilateral partners include GIZ, AusAid and CIDA, who work not only with national governments but equally with NGOs in addition to regional governmental institutions.
Market linkages: the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) estimates that 15-20 per cent of global minerals and metals derive from artisanal mining (IIED, 2013). Though globalization of mining processes is not new, it has led to new sourcing of raw materials in resource-rich but also more isolated areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin and South America, and South East Asia.
This more pronounced penetration of mineral buyers and small investors into isolated regions of the world gives rise to further concerns over how artisanal mining is both impacted by these markets demands, and accordingly responds. Piloted efforts to model clean supply chains, or fair trade minerals, are re-emerging as a means to diffuse the principle of responsibility across the supply chain—whether companies, manufacturers, smelters, buyers and traders, and national governments.
Natural resource management and biodiversity: The global rise in specific mineral prices, such as gold, has precipitated recent pockets of mining rushes worldwide. Some of these environments include previously untouched places that are ecologically-sensitive, including protected areas and critical ecosystems such as artic landscapes (Greenland), tropical rainforests (Brazil and Gabon), and coral reefs (Philippines). Environmental impacts of mining methods—such as clear-cutting forests, river dredging, or use of toxic chemicals—are compounded by livelihood practices that support mining populations—gathering firewood, hunting for food or trade of goods.
On a global scale, artisanal and small-scale forms of gold production remain the biggest environmental challenge due to mercury use. The recent UN Treaty to further limit and in some cases ban mercury use in-countries presents a renewed opportunity to tackle its use in ASM. However the environmental agenda surrounding ASM must be integrated into broader governance discussions as often environmental degradation caused by ASM occurs within a vacuum of government regulation and presence.