ASM – a challenge and opportunity in global mineral supply chains
As it is already well-known, one of the big challenges in mineral supply chains are the economic, social and environmental issues that artisanal and small-scale mining is facing and which reflect on the industry as a whole, as around 15% of the gold mined comes from this sector. Artisanal and small-scale mining can cause significant negative impacts, but there is a huge potential to mitigate them down to an acceptable level and turn the positive impacts into a lever for development and wellbeing in remote and marginalised mining communities around the world.
Artisanal and small-scale miners generally don’t have the knowledge, resources, access, capacities and vision to take this journey towards more responsible practices on their own - they generally struggle with much more basic needs and livelihood challenges. Education and external support are needed, and although people in Western countries often think that this should be provided by their governments, unfortunately the reality in lower and middle-income countries is different and outside support is needed to assist in this transformation.
Unfortunately, we have also seen public announcements of big gold industry players who have decided to completely disengage from artisanal and small-scale mining due to the high risks and difficulties in controlling them. Again, this is not the solution, as this will not stop mining and ignores a problem instead of facing and resolving it.
Even worse, disengagement of the formal gold sector may drive channeling artisanally mined gold towards illicit buyers which often find creative ways to incorporate this gold into formal supply chains, so, in the end, the disengagement doesn’t really work out as intended and even worsens the situation. Furthermore, it is not the approach recommended by the OECD Due Diligence Guidance, which is the framework adopted by most responsible mineral sourcing strategies today.
I recommend this blog by Global Witness that summarises very well why disengagement from artisanal and small-scale cannot be considered as responsible sourcing.