Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM)

3. Global distribution of activities

Given the largely poverty-driven nature of operations, the majority of ASM activities are located in the less developed regions of the world, most notably in Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Pacific regions. ASM activities are found in over 80 countries globally. Though it is difficult to obtain reliable data concerning the number of people engaging in ASM, the following figures are from a range of published sources and are provided here as estimates.

The following tables provide figures estimating the number of workers directly engaged in ASM in countries where activities are commonplace:

sub-Saharan Africa

Country Number of miners directly engaged
Angola 150,000
Burkina Faso 200,000
Central African Republic 400,000
Chad 100,000
Côte D’Ivoire 100,000
Democratic Republic of Congo 200,000
Eritrea 400,000
Ethiopia 500,000
Ghana 1,100,000
Guinea 300,000
Liberia 100,000
Madagascar 500,000
Malawi 40,000
Mali 400,000
Mozambique 100,000
Niger 450,000
Nigeria 500,000
South Africa 20,000
Sierra Leone 300,000
South Sudan 200,000
Tanzania 1,500,000
Uganda 150,000
Zimbabwe 500,000


Latin America and Caribbean

Country Number of miners directly engaged
Bolivia 72,000
Brazil 200,000
Colombia 340,000 (and medium scale)
Ecuador 92,000
Guyana 12,000
Peru 60,000
Suriname 20,000


East Asia and Pacific

Country Number of miners directly engaged
China 3,000,000 – 15,000,000
Indonesia 109,000
Mongolia 100,000
Papua New Guinea 60,000
Philippines 300,000


Note: Tables are not exhaustive, include only the main countries in each region, and for which estimates are available.


Multiplier effect and linkages to other sectors

It is generally recognised that for every person working directly in ASM, an additional three to five people are supported indirectly through work in associated industries. This universe includes taxi drivers, gold, diamond, and other mineral buyers and refiners, shops, bars, food stalls and restaurants, local markets, equipment suppliers and farming inputs.

This multiplier effect often results in the local economies of entire towns and communities being built up around and dependent upon the sector as their main source of livelihood.

A key example of this multiplier effect are the strong linkages ASM has to farming in many rural communities. Often during low seasons on the farm, farmers and labourers will turn to ASM to supplement their incomes. The higher returns from mining are then used to invest and support agricultural activities, leading to increased resilience and food security, and the potential for greater environmental stewardship as people need to maintain the quality of their land for farming, and the development of mutually beneficial livelihoods.