Dialogues for a sustainable and productive artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector

Project

IIED's dialogue programme for artisanal and small-scale mining enables a wide range of stakeholders to come together and collaborate on empowering miners, improving governance and delivering a safer, more secure working environment. 

Small-scale miners dry ores in the process of gold mining in Geita, Tanzania (Photo: John Louis/Investing In Gold, Creative Commons)

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) can make a positive contribution to inclusive and equitable sustainable development and growth in some of the world's poorest and more marginalised regions. However, its full potential is seldom realised.

Instead, ASM is often linked to deforestation, environmental degradation, water and soil contamination, and threats to community and miners' health and wellbeing, as well as to illicit trade and even criminal activity.

IIED's ASM dialogue programme provides a much-needed forum for multi-stakeholder collaboration and knowledge sharing to promote better governance, greater voice, and secure and productive employment across the mining sector and complementary rural livelihoods. 

By ensuring that all stakeholders participate, that the process is locally owned, and that discussions focus on solutions, our dialogues can help align this impoverished and vulnerable sector with national priorities and sustainable development agendas. 

Using dialogue to drive transformation in the ASM sector

We do not see a dialogue as a one-off event. Rather, we understand it to be an ongoing process of engaging key players in research and priority setting, developing national ownership of a solutions-focused agenda, and promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration for change in both policy and practice.

 Diagram showing three stages of the mining dialogue process

Our dialogue approach (click on the image above to enlarge it) works to: 

  • Create consensus on a new agenda for change: Our dialogues begin with participatory, local research to unpick complex agendas and identify solutions that build on participants' knowledge and reflections. Pre-dialogue workshops provide a space to agree on the main problems, so that stakeholders can then look forward and focus on solutions in the dialogue itself.
     
  • Bring unheard voices to the debate: A solid focus on engagement puts all stakeholders on an equal footing. By beginning the research and dialogue in the field, and ensuring the voices of miners – especially women – are heard within the dialogue, the discussion can move from backward-looking, abstract reflections towards thinking about the future of local people's lives and landscapes.

    In addition, a robust and parallel communications programme engages stakeholders and brings positive stories of change from the field to national, regional and global audiences.
     
  • Drive leadership, enthusiasm and confidence: Through the dialogue process, by convening and enabling local actors to set the agenda, national multi-stakeholder Learning and Leadership Groups (LLG) are identified and endorsed. These groups are established to build and maintain engagement after the dialogue and are key to ensuring the sustainability of a country-led process. 

Creating virtuous cycles

FromTo
ASM driven by poverty and a lack of optionsEfficient small businesses with access to information and finance
Insecure, dangerous work, especially for women and childrenEmpowered miners and safe and decent jobs
Environmental degradation and land use conflictAccess to clean technology; with best ASM practice enforced
Outdated policy and attitudes towards ASMIntegrated, informed policy and collaborative efforts

Key resources

Publications

Transforming mining through dialogue, Abbi Buxton (2016), IIED project flyer

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Ghana. Evidence to inform an Action Dialogue, James McQuilken, Gavin Hilson (2016), IIED Report

State gold-buying programmes. Effective instruments to reform the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector?, RCS Global (2016), IIED Report

Artisanal and small-scale mining and agriculture. Exploring their links in rural sub-Saharan Africa, Gavin Hilson (2016), IIED Report

Governments, large- and small-scale mining: beginning a dialogue, Abbi Buxton (2014), IIED Project information

Artisanal and small-scale mining: protecting those 'doing the dirty work', Boris Verbrugge, Beverly Besmanos, Abbi Buxton (2014), IIED Briefing Paper

'What is legal?' Formalising artisanal and small-scale mining in Colombia, Cristina Echavarria (2014), IIED Report

Responding to the challenge of artisanal and small scale mining: How can knowledge networks help?, Abbi Buxton (2013), IIED Report

Scaling-up certification in artisanal and small-scale mining: Innovations for inclusivity, Emma Blackmore, Caren Holzman and Abbi Buxton (2013), IIED Report

MMSD+10: Reflecting on a decade of mining and sustainable development, Abbi Buxton (2012), IIED Report

Donors

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation

Ford Foundation

The UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID)

Contact

Fitsum Weldegiorgis (fitsum.weldegiorgis@iied.org), senior researcher, IIED's Shaping Sustainable Markets research group