Artisanal and Small-scale Mining

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), which refers to mining with minimal or no mechanization often in the informal sector, has increasingly captured the interest of governments, international organizations, and private corporations because of its growing role in national economies and its impacts on society and the environment. The artisanal mining sector also provides new opportunities for private sector partnerships who seek to invest in the production of scarce resources while maintaining a supply-chain that is compliant with international standards. Numerous types of minerals are extracted in this fashion—gold, cassiterite, wolframite, colored gemstones, diamonds, cobalt, and even coal—and the production and commercialization of many of these minerals have fueled conflict globally, with property rights struggles often at the core of these conflicts.

Artisanal miners labor under archaic and difficult working conditions and live in extreme poverty, often receiving less than 9% of the retail price of the stones they extract. A lack of internal controls leads to disconnected and often illegal mines and prevents miners from acquiring the licenses required to operate within the law, the equipment necessary to increase their gains, and the assets needed to diversify their livelihoods. Not surprisingly, miners often become incentivized to mine quickly, sell fast, and rapidly move on to new sites. These practices have devastating economic and environmental consequences, negatively impact export revenues, and prevent compliance with international agreements.

Through strengthening tenure security and clarifying property rights and using international mechanisms such as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), resource conflicts can be reduced significantly while also providing incentives for mitigating environmental impacts of this extractive sector. When artisanal and small-scale miners’ rights to prospect and dig are formal and secure, they are more likely to sell through legal channels, enabling the government to track the origin of minerals and prevent them from fueling conflict.



Blog Posts

Becoming an Artisanal Miner According to the Law: Breakthrough Sensitization

The USAID-funded Artisanal Mining and Property Rights (AMPR) project has sensitized over 1,243 (including 266 women) artisanal miners and mine site owners on how to officially become artisanal miners according to Central African law. AMPR Community Development Specialists and Community Mobilizers conducted the sensitization sessions jointly with Regional Officers from the Ministry of Mines and...Read More

Statement of Jeffrey Haeni, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, on Illicit Mining

On December 5, 2019, the Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues held a hearing on Illicit Mining: Threats to U.S. National Security and International Human Rights. USAID’s Jeff Haeni, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment (E3), testified on...Read More

Jewelers CAN Trace Their Gold

Gold from Conflict-Free Mines in Congo Sold in US Jewelry Stores By Juliane Kippenberg Associate Director, Children’s Rights Division, Jo Becker Advocacy Director, Children’s Rights Division People in the United States will now be able to buy jewelry made with “conflict-free” gold from Zales and Kay Jewelers, two of the nation’s largest jewelry retailers. The RAGS (Responsible Artisanal...Read More

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