A general overview on Formalization of Artisanal Small scale Mining/Miners (ASM)

Formalization of Artisanal Small Scale miners is a complex process but it is very vital to the improvement of miners’ lives. Ultimately, it involves participation of many stakeholders. Formalization entails recognizing ASM in the first place and then having proper policies and governance in place and from a legal perspective, formalization means miners and cooperatives are registered with the government using proper mining channels and processes. In other countries ASMs are recognized by law, but the very same governments haven’t created an enabling environment for miners to obtain proper permits and licenses.Other aspects of formalization include, supply chain transparency, health, safety and environment, human rights protections, chain of custody, access to finance, using and following proper mining techniques, as well as sound policies, procedures and due diligence systems in place. The process of formalization may include the introduction of legal and regulatory frameworks, providing legal access to minerals and information about geological data, organizing miners into flexible and dynamic organizations and providing access to capital, equipment and technical assistance.

The context surrounding artisanal Small Scale mining in different regions varies. In some cases, ASM has been a source of livelihoods for families and communities for decades while in other areas, the high value of minerals, particularly during periods of high prices, draws populations looking for income during conflict or insecurity. In many developing countries, the government’s ability to regulate the ASM sector is weak. Many artisanal Small Scale miners continue to operate in an informal manner, where legal or regulatory frameworks may not exist.  Legal access to minerals may be limited as well as access to capital, equipment, and technical assistance. Different countries have taken different approaches to working with artisanal small scale miners and managing them. Several countries have introduced policy measures trying to legalize or formalize artisanal mining and have yielded varying results.

However, interesting documentations have been made onBest Practices: Formalization and Due Diligence in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining,in countries like Mongolia, Columbia and in Africa, DRC.

Findings in most countries have revealed that despite showing considerable promise at first, the drive to formalize ASM has lost considerable momentum. This among others may be due, overlapping of responsibilities, bureaucratic/archaic licensing scheme and also lack of access to information about miners and their dominance. For example, efforts to formalize ASM in Malawi are new and need a vigilant system to put things in order. With the enactment of the New Mines and Minerals Act, ASM Policy in place, Malawi still stands a chance on the road to formalization.

Success of Formalization of Artisanal Small Scale Mining

As a matter of success of formalizing ASMs, there are some factors that need to be considered in all aspects and these are;

  • Providing Access and acquisition of Equipment.
  • Ensuring Access to Capital, microfinance credit and savings, or other legal revenue generating activities.
  • Enabling dialogue between ASM Stakeholders and governments
  • Providing Access to geological Data
  • Developing Conducive and Comprehensive Legal Frameworks.
  • Developing and enhancing  More Capacity Building

If existing government regulations, and probably elsewhere in most governments are enforced, an ASM business model could improve peoples’ livelihoods and living conditions in remote areas and without good governance it risks facilitating enclaves of uncontrolled resource exploitation. Artisanal mining is an important driver of development in communities where there are often few other opportunities for generating income. It is a known fact that ASM contributes positively to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and with inclusive, comprehensive formalization, the global community can mitigate ASM’s negative impacts amicably.

Actions focusing on miners alone have been shown to have limited success in reducing the use of illegal inputs, reducing the monopoly power of buyers, or limiting parallel trade. It is important to include the surrounding community and the benefits that may also come due to formalized and legalized business.

What happens when ASM is Informal/ without Formalization.

Informal mining often refers to individuals or cooperatives who are engaged in ASM, but operating outside of a legal framework that grants them rights to mine. Informal mining is often tolerated by many governments and may also be considered as legitimate by local communities. An example is where the Malawi government is buying gold from informal ASMs through Export Development Fund (EDF) on behalf of the Reserve Bank of Malawi. While informal mining is technically done without legal access to land or minerals, it is not necessarily associated with illicit or criminal activity—though informal miners are more vulnerable to illicit actors looking to take advantage. The following may result from informal mining activities:

  • Environmental risks may go unchecked that eventually threaten the ecosystem
  • Health risks due to no PPE and peoples’ behaviours
  • No legal and regulatory framework to protect the miners/workers
  • Emergence of child labour in the mining sites
  • Illegal armed groups may emerge in the industry to fund violence.
  • ASMs may move into protected areas e.g. in Malawi where they have moved in National Parks and Forest reserves leading to arrests.

Way Forward to Formalization of ASMs

  • Prevent People from Engaging in Illegal ASM through provision of policy and governance direction.
  • Facilitate government supported legalized ASM Sector through necessary documentation.
  • Provide Licences to ASMs and demarcate those areas for Licensed miners-
  • Facilitate/ help ASMs in equipment acquisition through micro-credit facilities.

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