The guidance comes at a crucial time for the mining sector as demand for materials such as cobalt, gold and precious stones fuel continued growth in artisanal and small-scale mining; especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, said the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF).
It is estimated that close to 25 million artisanal and small-scale miners currently operate globally with a further 100 million workers indirectly involved in the industry. This dwarfs the number active in large-scale mining and presents a huge development opportunity. Unfortunately, management of the sector is currently typically weak and inconsistent.
The informal mining sector can be a source of social conflict and can result in serious impacts on human health and the environment. Integrating artisanal and small-scale mining into the formal economy can help miners and communities by increasing security, creating a path towards more stable incomes and ensuring that safer and more environmentally sustainable practices are employed.
It can also help spur longer-term economic and social development and ensure that the entire nation benefits from the exploitation of natural resources.
Potential impact of the IGF Guidance
The Guidance represents the first major attempt to implement a global standard for managing and improving artisanal and small-scale mining. It offers countries with artisanal and small-scale mining operations a clear mechanism to better monitor, regulate, and improve the sector and has been endorsed by the IGF’s 56 member governments.
It also provides the blueprint for improved co-ordination between artisanal and small-scale host governments at the national and regional levels, and global downstream businesses operating in the sector.
“Effective management of a sector as complex as artisanal and small-scale mining is extremely challenging.
“We strove to design a flexible toolkit which will help our member governments implement a strategy which is founded on global best practices and then adapted to suit national goals and realities, said Greg Radford, director of the IGF Secretariat.
From the industry side, the Guidance will allow mining companies and downstream businesses to better coordinate their upstream engagement with artisanal and small-scale mining host governments and mining sites directly; improve their due diligence; and further prove compliance with responsible sourcing requirements. Once implemented at the country level, the Guidance will also ensure a more predictable, reliable and responsible sourcing environment for mineral traders, refiners and manufacturers.
The Guidance itself takes governments through a step-by-step process covering the planning, development, and – crucially – the implantation stage of an artisanal and small-scale mining management strategy and several governments are already consulting with the IGF about implementing this process.
It is endorsed by virtually every key industry body in the sector including the ICMM, LBMA, WGC, RJC, IRMA, TANB, CDI and RJC, said the IGF.
RCS Global is a responsible raw materials supply chain audit and advisory firm. They work directly with industry, national governments, international regulatory bodies and international non-governmental organisations to provide research, technical assistance and training on responsible supply chains globally. The company has worked on improving public policy frameworks and their implementation internationally and in over 20 countries worldwide.
The IGF is a member-driven organisation aimed at providing opportunities for national governments with an interest in mining to share best practices and work collectively to achieve their goals. The IGF is devoted to optimising the benefits of mining to achieve poverty reduction, inclusive growth, social development and environmental stewardship.