Bright prospects for mining sector dialogue

Diverse groups that make up the mining sector have outlined and begun work on two key issues that present barriers to an integrated industry.
Press release, 30 June 2015

An ambitious initiative to bring together these groups kicked off its global dialogue series with a London workshop, targeted at bringing the wide range of actors that make up the sector into the room together to discuss what these barriers currently look like for them on a daily basis. 

The workshop, funded by the Ford Foundation, discussed in depth the importance of improving government's capacity, resource and incentive to improve artisanal and small-scale mining's (ASM) contribution to sustainable livelihoods. 

The 40-plus participants, bought together by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in a workshop, included government ministers, academics, large-scale mining companies and small-scale miners, international donors, NGOs and business membership associations.

The London attendees thoroughly reviewed the issues surrounding artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and concluded that a more inclusive, sustainable and productive mining sector, with ASM fully integrated, is within reach. Better formalisation policies and the promotion of rights were identified as the means to achieving a more productive and responsible mining sector that is inclusive of ASM. 

In this global forum, the stakeholders from across the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia were able to collectively share their knowledge, experience and perspectives for the first time. 

The benefits of tackling these issues for large-scale mining include better community relations, access to otherwise-restricted mineral reserves and an increased workforce. 

Artisanal miners benefit from reduced risk and improved income. Improved access to technologies and skill transfer further improve the recovery rate for minerals leading to improved profits for both small and large-scale miners. For example, ASM is one of the largest causes of mercury pollution in the world, second only to coal mining, but knowledge-sharing with large-scale mining may help to reduce this. 

Local and national governments will be in a better position to track the positive economic impacts that arise from ASM activity – the industry generates up to five times the income of other rural poverty-driven activities in agriculture and forests. They will also benefit from greater control over health, environmental and social hazards presented by many current ASM practices. 

Minerals and metals are widely used in consumer and industrial goods worldwide. To meet demand, mining companies are increasingly required to operate in remote and developing regions. Estimates indicate that by 2030, around half of all copper and gold will be mined on land used or claimed by local people or those in ASM, making dialogues such as the IIED initiative more necessary than ever before.

Quick facts

  • ASM mines provide jobs and income for 20-30 million of the world's poorest people and support the livelihoods of five times that number
  • Overall, ASM employs ten times more people than large-scale mining. It takes place in very remote areas, usually involves poor and vulnerable people — including women and children — and is renowned for severe pollution and harsh working conditions
  • Development agencies and national authorities have historically given little attention to the sector and how to make it sustainable, instead focusing on large scale mining and other rural livelihood activities
  • The global metals and mining industry had total revenues of USD $2,489.5 billion in 2013


Steve Bass, global convenor of the dialogue series at IIED, said: "It is estimated that 80 per cent of the global mining sector workforce are engaged in artisanal mining, and that between 12-20 per cent of the world's gold comes from ASM activities. As such the dialogue series must be practical and outcomes focused, with ASM involved as a serious player."

Abbi Buxton, IIED senior researcher, said: "IIED's experience on our local to global projects over the years has taught us that this kind of change cannot be achieved through top-down policies or global blueprints. We have been championing this community approach as we take our mining work forward."

"IIED is identifying a country in which to run the first local dialogue to tackle the formalisation and government capacity priorities identified by the broad range of industry stakeholders at the London workshop. The success of this kind of dialogue relies on the knowledge within each community – no two are alike."

Project background

IIED's global dialogue series on ASM follows its earlier work on mining. In 2000-2002, the institute ran the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project, a major review of the mining sector that gathered evidence and engaged stakeholders around the question of 'how can mining and minerals best contribute to the global transition to sustainable development?'.

In 2012, IIED published a ten-year review to assess progress and identify paths forward. ASM was identified as an area where little progress has been made over the past decade, along with a greater emphasis on championing community and local voices. The global dialogue series seeks to address some of the underlying and ongoing challenges to ensure progress over the next ten years.

Further resources


For general media enquiries, images and case studies, contact media and external affairs manager Katharine Mansell ([email protected])

Notes to editors

IIED is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development.

For more information or to request an interview, contact Simon Cullen: 
+44 7503 643332 or [email protected]