For Governments

Acknowledging that there are many governments in regions where gemstones are mined who are earnestly trying to address poverty at many scales, we offer some observations that can enrich and energize the adapative management process of improving conditions and livelihood options of those who work in artisanal and small-scale gemstone mines. It is important for governments to recognize that the good of the greater public in these regions must also be accounted for by protecting natural resources and ecosystem services on which the health and sustainability of proximate communities depend.  Legislation that specifies health, safety, labor and environmental standards for legalized small-scale mining operations is a vital piece of each complex solution, but it will not solve any problems by simply existing.  Illegal miners need incentives, support, and an embryo of trust in the system to become part of it.  A policy of proactive outreach and engagement with organized leaders in the world of artisanal and illegal mining is likely to be extremely helpful for developing and focusing extension materials and logistics where they will have the most impact.  Through collaboration with anthropologists, mine engineering consultants and funders, it is possible to produce useful outreach materials such as the series of didactic notebooks for artisanal miners of Madagascar (Cahier Didactique Pour L’Artisan Minier de Madagascar) that was prepared with the help of British and German consultants under the auspices of the Technical Assistance Project for the Small Scale Mining Sector [1](an arm of the Mining Governance Improvement Project (PGRM) financed by the World Bank and the Ministry of Energy and Mines).  These types of materials are only useful if they are made accessible and interesting to the leaders of artisanal mining operations and their constituents.

While a variety of government-sponsored projects have aimed to improve conditions in artisanal mining communities, the majority of these have failed at contributing to increased productivity, higher living standards for subsistence miners and environmental reform.   It has been suggested that a major reason for widespread failure is that the demographics and socio-economic needs of target populations are not well understood [2]. Governments of countries where mining is taking place could partner with universities, local non-governmental organizations, and when appropriate large-scale mining companies, to conduct basic and localized census work.  The information yielded by this type of work will be invaluable before governments embark on expensive, elaborate projects and policies aimed at improving social, economic and environmental conditions in gemstone mining communities.  Consistent and effective incentives are needed, but without accurate information about the miners and their perceptions, making policies is like taking shots in the dark. 

Once workable policies are in place, implementing them will require a reliable way to enforce them and monitor compliance.  The work and cost of monitoring is likely to be lower if miners can willingly organize into cooperatives that maintain data and records of indicators over time.  Standards that are prioritized and categorized into minimum requirements and progressive requirements will allow cooperatives to break down problems into addressable chunks and continuously work towards improvement over time. 

The post-mining closure process is of special importance to governments in countries where artisanal mining occurs.  A depleted mine can cause serious environmental and health risks when planning does not extend to the closure and rehabilitation process.  On the other hand, pits remaining from small gemstone mining operations can also provide significant development opportunities for applications like fish farms [3], historic parks for tourism and other creative but site appropriate afterlives.  Local and regional governments can work to incorporate post-mining uses into master land-use plans with appropriate technical and financial support from federal governments and development aid agencies.

 

Endnotes

[1]: ATPEM 2002.
[2]: Hilson, G. 2005.
[3]: Otchere et al. 2004.