Artisanal or small scale mining could provide millions of marginalized people with sustainable livelihoods, according to a new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Growth in this sector is currently being driven by increased demand for minerals such as tin and tungsten, which are components in many high-tech devices.
Small scale mining currently employs ten times as many people as large scale mining. As a result, it provides jobs to 20-30 million people, supporting up to 100-150 million people in total. It is common in poverty-stricken areas of the developing world, like South Africa and India.
However, the sector is infamous for its exploitation of vulnerable people, such as women and children, as well as its harsh working conditions and emission of pollution. The IIED confirms that most people who practice small scale mining are not aware of its health and safety risks.
Other concerns about the growth of this sector relate to knowledge gaps that prevent effective policies from being implemented. Consequently, miners are not aware of their rights and lack access to financial services, market information, technology and geological data. All of these factors could help them maximize their incomes while minimizing the environmental impact.
Policy makers, with efficient small mining practice information, could put effective policies into practice that ensure the rights and safety of independent workers. At the same time, these policies could further minimize the environmental impacts of small scale mining, which, in some places, already has a lighter environmental footprint than large scale mining.
Empowering poor small scale miners while protecting their safety and rights could help millions establish a sustainable livelihood while also meeting an increasing market demand for key minerals.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez
Source: The Guardian