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Appalling Conditions for Growing Number of Artisanal Miners, says World Bank's CASM Initiative

September 4, 2007


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Mauricio Ríos (202) 458-2458

In Ulaanbaatar

Sunjidmaa Jamba (976 11) 312647 ext. 207 




WASHINGTON, D.C., September 4, 2007 — At least 20 million people in some 50 countries around the world engage in artisanal and small-scale mining, and a further 100 million people depend on it for their livelihood, almost always in appalling environmental and social conditions, according to Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM), a multi-donor global program supported by the World Bank.


CASM’s annual international conference from September 7th-12th will be held this year in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where artisanal and small-scale mining experts from around the world will take stock of the situation of artisanal miners. This year’s main topic for discussion is “Effective Partnership for Sustainable Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining”.


“The World Bank is honored to co-host this conference in Mongolia, where artisanal and small-scale mining affect the lives of thousands of people,” says Arshad M. Sayed, World Bank’s country manager. “This is also a timely event as Congress prepares to discuss a small-scale mining law, so we look forward to a very constructive and productive engagement with all major stakeholders.”


As many as 650,000 women in 12 of the world’s poorest countries are engaged in artisanal mining, and between 1 and 1.5 million children are also involved in this activity. The range of commodities exploited by artisan miners is diverse, including gemstones, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, coal, and other industrial minerals.


“The numbers of artisanal miners are growing in line with higher prices and demand for minerals both in OECD countries and emerging economies such as China and India,” says Gotthard Walser, lead mining specialist and manager of the CASM program.  “Artisanal mining could make greater contributions to economic growth if the right mix of conditions and incentives are provided, particularly through more effective partnerships between governments and mining companies.”


The social and economic characteristics of small-scale mining fully reflect the challenges of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including: health, environment, gender, education, child labor, and poverty eradication. 


Small-scale mining communities, for instance, are highly vulnerable to communicable diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, influenza, cholera, yellow fever, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/AIDS.


Further, large scale mining often comes to areas of traditional artisanal and small-scale mining, which creates potential conflicts around issues of ownership rights and alternative livelihoods, particularly in post-conflict and fragile states which already experience high levels of social and economic stress.


In order to address some of these issues, CASM is helping establish positive and productive relationships amongst local communities, large scale mining companies and government agencies within an equitable and effective legal framework. CASM’s work program engages 35 other organizations in 25 countries across different regions, with potential benefits for thousands of people.


CASM is also looking to advance integrated social and economic development, including the utilization of environmentally responsible techniques in the exploitation of minerals. And it is also helping all relevant stakeholders to comply with international standards related to labor regulations and occupational health and safety.


According to the program manager of CASM, it is equally important to provide artisanal miners with acceptable incomes through productive mining practices which enhance local infrastructure and services, and to allow for long-term efficient resource extraction with access to fair markets and sources of credit.




To learn more about CASM and artisanal mining, please visit:www.casmsite.org


To learn more about the World Bank in Mongolia, please visit: https://www.worldbank.org/mn/country/mongolia


Background information:


What is artisanal mining?

Artisanal and small scale mining is the extraction and production of minerals and mineral products by hand methods and small scale low technology mechanized operations.



The Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) initiative was launched in March 2001 in response to an urgent plea persistently made at every international meeting on small-scale mining, for improved coordination between the various institutions working in this sector and for better integrated, multi-disciplinary solutions to the complex social and environmental challenges facing small-scale mining communities.CASM’s holistic approach to small-scale mining aims to transform this activity from a source of conflict and poverty into a catalyst for economic growth and sustainable development.


Donors/countries that support CASM

The main donors are the UK’s Department for International Development and The World Bank Group, through its Development Grant Facility. CASM also receives support for a variety of its initiatives from other donors, including: Natural Resources Canada; Trust funds from Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, and Switzerland; and Partners like the Global Mining Research Alliance.