Artisanal and Small-scale Mining

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On Wednesday 4th March 2020 the CEPMLP hosted Professor Gavin Hilson as the Wednesday Visiting Speaker. Prof. Hilson is the Chair of Sustainability in Business at the University of Surrey, a leading authority on Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) with substantive fieldwork experience and in-depth knowledge of the sector. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal ‘Extractive Industries and Society’.

Focusing his presentation on three recent papers and Mining and the Sustainable Development Goals, Prof. Hilson introduced the understanding of ASM as the low-tech labour-intensive extraction of easily accessible deposits. He fortified reasons why we should all care about ASM right now and delved into the global focus on formalization of the sector. Highlighting that formalisation is not only about getting an ASM miner a licence but should be about unravelling all the issues in this informal sector and how to address its negatives in different contexts. Discussing both the benefits and negatives of ASM, he showed that donors and policy makers need more data and evidence about the sector including who is mining; what networks exist and who is running them; and what labour hierarchies and dynamics should be considered.

Prof. Hilson cautioned against relying on generic ideas when designing an ASM initiative or policy and noted that reliance should be on the specific local context. Structural Adjustment Programmes, mining sector reform, and restructure and liberation of agriculture have led to the growth of ASM. Both skilled and unskilled, highly educated and illiterate people are involved in ASM for different reasons including distress push of unemployment, or demand pull for businesspeople. Using examples from his fieldwork in Ghana and experience in Guyana, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, and other countries Prof. Hilson explained the five things to know about ASM: Pros and Cons; Formalization; understanding the Poverty cycle; Moving ahead; and New solutions to increase visibility.  Interaction with the audience discussed development minerals, gender, and food security angles of ASM.

The talk was chaired by Dr Ana Elizabeth Bastida, Senior Lecturer Law & Sustainability Mining & Metals.

(By Loyola Karobwa)