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FEATURE STORY July 29, 2020

EGPS Launches New Emergency Response for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Communities Impacted by COVID-19

road construction in the forest, Gabon

An artisanal mine in Minkébé, Gabon. © Gustave Mbaza/WWF Gabon


  • EGPS creates an emergency response for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities impacted by COVID-19
  • Switzerland has committed 1 million Swiss Francs in seed funding
  • The response provides short-term assistance to ASM communities to address vulnerabilities and help miners to better cope with COVID-19 related impacts

COVID-19 is not only a worldwide public health emergency but has become an international economic crisis. Recent World Bank estimates indicate that COVID-19 is likely to cause the first increase of global poverty since 1998, pushing 71 to 100 million people into extreme poverty. In developing countries, the COVID-19 crisis is having an immediate and amplified impact on the poorest and most vulnerable regions. The 40 million people working in the informal, and often illegal, precarious conditions in Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) around the world are particularly vulnerable. 

The World Bank`s Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS) has created a new emergency response for vulnerable ASM communities impacted by COVID-19. The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs contributed 1 million Swiss Francs in seed funding. More support from donors is expected.   

"Some of the poorest and most vulnerable people work in artisanal and small-scale mining, and we are deeply concerned by the effects of COVID-19 on their lives and livelihoods. We are convinced that EGPS is well-placed to provide significant and concerted support, with its evidence-based approach."
Monica Rubiolo
Head of Trade Promotion, Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs

The EGPS emergency relief response will provide short-term and medium-term assistance to a range of international, regional, national and local organizations engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining. The range of interventions considered by the relief response, includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Address health and well-being impacts by improving access to clean water, sanitation stations, health information campaigns, and community kitchens and other types of food drives to alleviate food insecurity.
  • Support social protection measures for miners and their households, such as assistance for miners who have had to re-enter their home communities due to temporary mine closures, or special measures to protect children during this crisis period.
  • Assist with alternative livelihoods for miners wishing to transition out of ASM
  • Support to women to mitigate social and health vulnerabilities from the crisis such as job loss, income reduction, childcare, and transition education.
  • Monitor capacities to prevent encroachment into protected areas and other sensitive ecosystems
  • Facilitate trade and avoid an increase in smuggling, illicit financial flows and financing of organized crime.
  • Build access to finance and other forms of support to small mining cooperatives and entities
  • Strengthen the organizational capacity of local governments, cooperatives and other ASM entities to provide ongoing support to these communities. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a massive shock for informal workers around the world and threatens to reverse the enormous progress that ASM communities have undertaken to formalize the sector. As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to evolve, the EGPS has adjusted its work program to address these vulnerabilities and created this emergency response to provide immediate action in support of the highly vulnerable miners living and working in remote, rural areas,” said Christopher Sheldon, Practice Manager, Energy and Extractives Global Practice at the World Bank.

The World Bank, working with 17 partners across 22 countries, was able to quickly investigate and publish on the DELVE platform specific COVID-19 impacts on select ASM communities that inform this emergency relief response. The research findings revealed encouragingly high levels of COVID-19 health awareness in remote mining communities and found that miners were relatively confident that if needed, they have adequate access to health support. However, an overwhelming number of miners are facing food insecurity due to inflation of basic goods and reduced income resulting from temporary mine closures, the drop in mineral prices, and reduced access to work caused by severe disruptions of global mineral supply chains which rely on ASM-sourced materials.

Additionally, ASM is often a last resort for people displaced by conflict. The pandemic and resulting economic crisis have heightened tension between local communities and immigrants. Without intervention, these vulnerable communities are at higher risk of increasing the spread of COVID-19, not to mention escalating community tensions, especially in fragile and conflict-affected areas.

The emergency relief response also builds on the World Bank`s work to promote ASM formalization through long-term engagement and government-owned policy reforms in countries such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tanzania.  The response utilizes the full range of EGPS capabilities, responding to crises as they unfold in vulnerable, rural ASM areas.