Mineral Policy

14. Artisanal and small-scale mining development

When countries determine how their mineral resources should be extracted optimally, they also need to consider the different mix of mining options. For example, in countries where there are few economic opportunities in rural areas except artisanal mining, it may be appropriate to support ASM development.

A miner descends a shaft in Burkina Faso {Photo: Olivier Girard, Centre for International Forestry Research)Some countries, such as Botswana, have taken the position that artisanal mining should not be encouraged as this is not an economically viable form of mining. The country has adopted a policy that mining should be small scale at least (with some form of mechanisation), and that small-scale mining should aspire to become medium sized, and so on.

Other countries such as Cameroon, have adopted the policy that local artisanal and small scale miners should be supported by government. The local miners participate in the development of smaller scale gold and diamond mining operations. If the mine expands or becomes too difficult for the local miners to mine, a foreign company with the needed resources and expertise can be invited to negotiate a Joint Venture (JV) with the local small mining company. The government has supported ASM through assistance with geological information, setting up of bank accounts, access to financing through these JV mining partnerships, access to training and equipment and a buyer. The Bank of Cameroon purchases all gold produced by the artisanal and small scale miners, ensuring a market for the products.

These examples illustrate that countries have a range of policy options available to them in terms of developing their mineral resources. They can choose to focus on attracting foreign direct investment into large scale mining endeavours where employment opportunities may be limited but the tax revenue is very high. Or they can choose to develop the domestic mining sector through requirements of shared ownership of mines such as the BEE model in Southern Africa. The Cameroon example provides another policy option where local miners are supported but foreign direct investment into large, integrated bauxite projects is also being promoted.