Artisanal mining activity has been taking place for centuries within Tanzania. (See information box
below). The Lake Victoria Goldfields in the Geita District provide a great attraction for artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) owing to the rich mineral endowment in the region, particularly with gold. The informal mining sector has provided a livelihood for many people and has persisted, irrespective with the presence of a large-scale mining operation.
The informal nature of ASM activities promotes unsafe mining practices and adverse environmental impacts, creating a legacy of liability that is often assumed by the nearest large scale operator. In addition to the safety and environmental issues, the nature of the settlements that arise from ASM activities brings a host of social consequences such as HIV/AIDS, child labour, prostitution and substance abuse.
Through research undertaken by AngloGold Ashanti, stakeholder workshops and site visits, Geita has developed a strategy for its interaction with artisanal miners surrounding the mine. The study provided an in-depth understanding of the nature of the ASM sector in the Geita District. It also identified other stakeholders involved in these issues and what work had been carried out to date. The study also highlighted the legal and financial liabilities which may arise for Geita Gold Mine with artisanal workings on its lease area.
Geita believes that it can have a positive impact on this sector of the industry through raising awareness of the destructive and dangerous practices that are commonplace and, through forming alliances with other stakeholders, improve the working conditions of these miners. Exact figures on the number of artisanal miners in the area are not easily obtainable owing to the informal and dynamic nature of the sector and the ad hoc basis on which mining is carried out; operations can spring up overnight and then disappear. The Tanzanian Chamber of Minerals and Energy estimates that there are between 500,000 and 1 million artisanal miners in Tanzania today. These artisanal miners come from all over Tanzania and neighbouring countries. It is estimated that 26% of artisanal miners are women; accurate statistics on children involved in mining activities are not available, but their involvement is clearly evident.
Says Carolyn Brayshaw, community development coordinator at Geita, "The approach we have adopted is a holistic one, and will be incorporated into the wider community development initiatives and engagement processes already in existence. We understand our limitations in effectively solving the artisanal problem, and have identified areas in which we can have a positive contribution. Using various methods we aim at offering socially, environmentally and economically sustainable alternatives to these miners, particularly in educating them on mercury contamination risk, shaft ventilation, wearing protective equipment and child labour.
"Part of our policy has already been put into action, as Geita has employed three artisanal miners as full time members of the mines rescue team. They receive world class rescue and first aid training, and have participated in rescue operations in and around the region. These three miners will play a crucial role in awareness campaigns in the surrounding communities, as well as assisting with rescue operations should this become necessary."
The role of artisanal miners in sustainable development
In many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, minerals are extracted by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) by people working with simple tools and equipment, usually in the informal sector, outside the legal and regulatory framework. The vast majority are very poor, exploiting marginal deposits in harsh and often dangerous conditions - and with considerable impact on the environment.
ASM is a livelihoods strategy adopted primarily in rural areas. In many cases, mining represents the most promising, if not the only, income opportunity available. ASM activities are often viewed negatively by governments, companies, environmentalists, and others. Concerns range from the use of child labour and the potential for environmental damage (particularly through the use of mercury in gold mining) to the use of ASM revenue to finance conflicts, the social disruption and conflict sometimes caused by 'rush' operations, the high incidence of prostitution, and the spread of HIV/AIDS where migrant workers are involved.
At the extreme, governments consider the sector illegal and attempt to ban it. In many cases, they simply neglect it, allowing negative social and environmental impacts to be aggravated. In only a few cases has this part of the mining sector been supported and regulated successfully. The relationship between large companies and small-scale miners is poorly understood and often troubled, with mutual mistrust and sometimes conflict. Large companies may consider small-scale miners as 'trespassers', while small-scale miners may see the granting of a concession to a large company as depriving them of their land and livelihoods.
The relative contribution of ASM to sustainable development depends on the priorities accorded to different objectives. In terms of meeting the world's need for minerals, large companies currently dominate overall. For some minerals - such as emeralds and tungsten - virtually all production is from ASM. From an economic perspective, most resources can be mined far more efficiently and intensively using large-scale mining methods, and in terms of environmental damage, small-scale mining generally has a greater impact per unit of output. From a livelihoods perspective, ASM often provides the only means of obtaining income and is therefore important. Yet for many people it never provides more than a subsistence wage, so its actual contribution is often limited. In the short to medium term, whatever the contribution - whether positive or negative - at the poorer end of the spectrum ASM activities will continue for at least as long as poverty drives them.
It is essential that efforts be made to maximise the benefits brought by small-scale mining and to avoid or mitigate the costs. Attempts to achieve this are constrained by a number of factors. Some of these, such as the lack of government and community capacity, apply to larger companies as well. Others are specific to ASM, such as poor access to finance and a lack of collective capacity, particularly for artisanal mining with operations at an individual or household level.
In the longer term, however, many ASM activities are likely to disappear naturally if progress towards sustainable development is made since alternative, more attractive employment options for small-scale miners will become available. This is not to say that some forms of ASM will not persist, particularly those undertaken seasonally on a low intensity scale or those that are
formalised and managed in a collective way where the nature of deposits lend themselves to smaller-scale activities.
Extracted from MMSD, Breaking new ground, chapter 13.