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Global Trends in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM): A review of key numbers and issues

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has benefited from a body of research spanning decades, despite an ongoing lack of understanding and statistical data for the sector. The existing literature, both academic and grey, has brought some consensus on key issues surrounding the sector, in many cases repeating similar findings and at times updating facts. This research paper reviews the existing literature on key thematic areas, bringing various findings together and providing updated information. Although secondary data collection is used as the main research method, the paper also benefited from the authors’ field experiences. Factual numbers for key aspects of the ASM sector are still limited, but this paper demonstrates some of the knowledge gaps in the sector and pulls together important data on selected thematic areas. It is expected to provide a platform for future new research.

The immediate aim of the paper was to serve as background material for the annual general meeting of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (IGF) in Geneva in October 2017. It is structured to first give a global (as well as regional) update on key ASM numbers and trends, followed by discussions of key ASM themes. These are: environment, health and safety impacts and remedial efforts; the ASM interface with large-scale mining (LSM); alternative livelihoods and diversification; ASM formalization and the global policy debate; and mineral certification schemes for ASM. The paper concludes with a discussion on initiatives and strategies for sustainable ASM.

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Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF). (2017). Global Trends in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM): A review of key numbers and issues. Winnipeg: IISD.