Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining

November 21, 2013

© Estelle Levin, 2004

  • Technical assistance to increase productivity coupled with social protection and fair labor standards.
  • Interplay of mining with other aspects of local economies to promote better integrated rural development strategies.
  • Pilot efforts to model clean supply chains or fair trade minerals are emerging as a means to spread the principle of responsibility across the supply chain.


Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining occurs in approximately 80 countries worldwide. There are approximately 100 million artisanal miners globally. Artisanal and small-scale production supply accounts for 80% of global sapphire, 20% of gold mining and up to 20% of diamond mining. It is widespread in developing countries in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Central and South America. Though the informal nature and on the whole un-mechanized operation generally results in low productivity, the sector represents an important livelihood and income source for the poverty affected local population. It ensures the existence for millions of families in rural areas of developing countries. About 100 million people – workers and their families - depend on artisanal mining compared to about 7 million people worldwide in industrial mining.



" Building on the knowledge created under the Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM), our extractives practice focuses on empowering sustainable livelihood alternatives for the rural poor.  "

Rachel Perks

Mining Specialist


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.


Since the closure of the Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) program, the World Bank, primarily through its Oil, Gas and Mining division has continued its work on artisanal mining. The agenda includes the seven country technical assistance projects (Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Ghana, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia) but also new efforts to build linkages with other World Bank departments and outside agencies.

Other emerging partnership areas will include private sector partnerships, examining the contribution made by artisanal mining in fragile countries, and the status and protection of women in such environments. In addition, the International Finance Corporation is supporting a pilot to assist mining companies evolve an artisanal mining strategy to manage the mitigate the risks potentially associated with their activities. The key focus is to identify opportunities to improve the development impact of mining company projects. 


Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) Background

The Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) Charter set out its mission “to reduce poverty by supporting integrated sustainable development of communities affected by or involved in artisanal and small-scale mining in developing countries”. The mission focused on coordination and networking amongst stakeholders, information exchanges, and facilitation of small projects.

It achieved this primarily through 4 key activity components:

  • An annual conference, hosted by the World Bank, which brought together ASM stakeholders. Field visits to ASM sites were integrated into the conference program to enrich program learning and exchange of experiences;

  • A website, acting as a central repository for official CASM documents in addition to other information regarding ASM globally

  • Small project funding, an opportunity to support innovative and timely projects addressing critical ASM challenges in line with CASM mission

  • Policy input, building on networks and learning to influence global dialogues and agenda setting

Some indicators of achievement included:

  • A five-fold increase in conference attendees from 2001-2010

  • Country representation at conferences grew to 47 by 2008

  • Its global partnerships grew from 13 to 32 over the life of the initiatives

  • Website received over 120,000 sessions / year by  2008