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FEATURE STORY June 19, 2019

Shining a light on a hidden sector


Courtesy of Pact

Story Highlights

  • The World Bank supported a unique report on artisanal and small-scale mining
  • This vital sector employs over 40 million people globally – with 10 million living in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Going forward, a new platform for artisanal and small-scale mining data will compile and analyze diverse sources of data from all corners of the world

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is a vital livelihood for over 40 million people in developing countries, particularly for those living in remote, rural areas, according to the recent 2019 State of the ASM Sector report. Although it is the most important rural non-farm activity in the developing world, the sector remains under-researched. Its potential to be part of broader development initiatives, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has not been realized.  

The World Bank’s Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS) alongside partner Pact, decided to shine a light on this vital sector by creating Delve, a global platform for artisanal and small-scale mining data, with the view that complete, accurate and reliable data is a necessary precondition for any intervention in ASM – whether to formalize the sector, improve the livelihoods of poor people, or empower women working as miners. As the sole database covering artisanal and small-scale mining across the world, Delve is necessary for policymakers and practitioners to take an informed approach to the sector.

In April 2019, the Delve team took a crucial first step, publishing a first of its kind report on artisanal and small-scale mining.

A first of its kind report 

The new report explores the impact of the ‘global data gap’ on ASM and outlines how the gap can be narrowed to formalize this global sector. Drawing from online database Delve, the report identifies ways to improve data collection methodologies and presents a shortlist of ‘key data needs’ for the sector. The report features in-depth analysis of the data gaps and importance of ASM through regional and country case studies, including Ghana, Guyana, India, Mongolia, Morocco and Peru.

Regional findings include: 

  • Sub-Saharan Africa is home to one of the largest numbers of artisanal and small-scale miners in the world, close to an estimated 10 million, with at least a further 60 million reliant on the sector. 
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 2 million people directly engage in ASM – up from an estimated 650,000 artisanal and small scale miners in 1999, but region-wide moves to collect complementary social and economic information about the sector have been disappointing.
  • ASM is a key livelihood strategy for the poor in East Asia and Pacific, with robust data focused on small-scale gold mining
  • ASM in South Asia remains in the shadows – though we know it is driven by poverty and heavily tied to subsistence agriculture. Data is urgently needed across South Asia given the region’s widespread poverty – particularly a better understanding of the role the sector plays in alleviating hardship and supporting rural families 

“Bridging the data gap is the first step in removing the veil of invisibility from the millions of men and women miners who are integral to our global economy,” said Karen Hayes, Vice President of Pact’s Mines to Markets initiative.



"“It’s time to shine a light on this vital sector so we can accelerate investments in people and communities for greater equity and sustainable economic growth”"
Riccardo Puliti
Senior Director and Head of the Energy and Extractives Global Practice at the World Bank


Courtesy of Pact

Best practices for data sharing and reporting 

The report finds that the following key steps can close the global data gap: 

  • Improving the sharing of qualitative and quantitative data currently collected
  • Combining data collection efforts between researchers 
  • Agreeing on a minimum number of data points that should be collected during any ASM research or development project and to be shared on a platform like Delve.
  • Sharing geological and livelihood data with researchers, government, and development partners looking to support the formalization of the ASM sector

A useful best practice list for reporting and sharing key data is also provided:

  • Always reference original, primary data sources. This enables the reader to locate the original data source and prevents data recycling. Sometimes it may not be possible to find the original source if it is embedded in a long trail of references and sub-references; if this is the case it should be clearly stated. This will also help to future characterize the extent of the data gap making it clear what areas need to be addressed.
  • The methodology and approach used should be clearly outlined. Clear notes on methodologies should be described and supplemented with background evidence and/or data. Outlining methodologies enables replication and repetition of studies by others, helping to promote improved methodologies, collaboration, and data sharing, as well as for scrutiny of results and findings.
  • Authors should state their confidence in estimates and any limitations. By stating the limitations and extent to which the findings of a study are generalizable to other contexts, it helps ensure that data are used appropriately to inform evidence-based decision making.
  • Benchmarking and triangulation should be used to compare estimates and assess reliability. This is a simple sense-checking exercise to determine whether the data and findings could be considered reliable and accurate. It is an easy and quick way to spot any inaccuracies or inconsistencies.
  • Quantitative data should be accompanied by qualitative analysis. It is only through accompanying qualitative information and in-depth socioeconomic and political analysis that quantitative data can be made sense of and contextualized to support the development of more effective formalization strategies and policies.

A new global resource 

The Delve database, compiling and analyzing diverse sources of data from all corners of the world, is now in beta testing mode with the full release of the database later in Summer 2019. The beta version allows users to:

  • Preview core components of the platform as we build out key features and content
  • Access to sample country dashboards
  • Preview the ASM sector directory and resource library

The Delve team encourages everyone who has an interest in ASM to contribute data and to use the resource to inform their thinking about this key livelihood and economic activity. 

Courtesy of Pact