ASM and Sustainability in Africa

ASM and Sustainability in Africa

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is widespread in Africa and exploits a very large number
of minerals. The conservative number of people involved is estimated to be more than 10 million.
However, these estimates are speculative. The Africa Mining Vision Action Plan (2011), under its Programme Cluster 4 on ASM, aims to “create a mining sector that harnesses the potential of artisanal and small scale mining to advance integrated and sustainable rural socioeconomic development.”
ASM is a livelihood activity that is inherently unsustainable because it relies on depleting assets. In considering ASM’s scope and the issue of sustainability, it is therefore important to demonstrate how sustainability can be derived from it. The key approaches that may be considered are the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) (DFID, 1999); Sustainable Development Goals (SDG); and the mineral linkages concept (Jourdan, 2014).
To turn ASM into a sustainable livelihood activity, it is important to identify the entry points for sustainability in ASM. In this context researchers and policy makers must:

• grasp a good understanding of the livelihood diversification concept;

• effectively apply SLA to ASM taking into account impacts and ASM policy interventions;

• consider the relationship between ASM, sustainability, mineral linkages and economic development and resilience;

• map SDGs on ASM development; and

• assess how the concept of mineral linkages applies to ASM.

For ASM to contribute to sustainable livelihoods, the sector must contribute to communities’ resilience. The nature of ASM makes it particularly challenging to align all the requirements for sustainable livelihoods.

Sustainable Livelihood Approach - SLA

A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain
or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future without undermining the natural resource base (Chambers & Conway, 1991).
To sustain positive livelihood outcomes, effective local institutions that deliver goods and services
must be in place. An important part of most livelihood programming activities has been community
capacity-building and institutional strengthening. The SLA was developed through interaction of
many development stakeholders. The SLA centres on poor rural people and resources and assets
at their disposal (any resources, mining or agriculture) that are applicable to ASM. For artisanal
miners and especially informal miners, access to assets is challenging. Miners’ human and social capital is degraded due to lack of access to education, prevalence of child labour and level of marginalisation. Access to financial and physical capital in rural areas is also undeveloped and for miners, it is even more intricate.
The aim of livelihood interventions is sustainable poverty reduction. It is important to investigate how
ASM interventions are contextualised in sustainability. A sustainability component is crucial in the economic activities of poor people for poverty reduction. ASM projects on other continents, demonstrate that a well-regulated ASM sector, guided by appropriate policies, and supported by well-resourced government services and private sector, does transform from poverty alleviation to a tangible development engine.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ASM

It is evident that ASM impacts the attainment of SDGs. It is opportune to develop an SDG-based
tool for supporting and inculcating of sustainability in ASM through planning and assessment of policies, strategies and programmes.

The tool should consider the following:
• Determination of areas that could be impacted under each goal, and how that would affect meeting the targets;
• Determination of the impact of mining (negativeand positive) on goal attainment and possible mitigation;
• Determining the partnerships required to meet the goals.

A complementary approach to bring coherence to such an analytical method might be to group the goals into the three key tenets of sustainable development, i.e. social, environment and economic.
This allows for an integrated approach to bringing sustainability into mining.

Mineral linkages

Mineral linkages can be defined as the inputs and outputs into the mining operation. It has been noted that such linkages in the mining sector are not well developed at a local level. This is why the optimization of mineral linkages is at the core of the aspiration of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV):

“…Transparent, equitable and optimal
exploitation of mineral resources to underpin
broad-based sustainable growth
and socio-economic development...”

In order for the mining sector in Africa to optimize its contribution to the broad-based development of the continent, it must be integrated into national economies through linkages. As a major livelihood and economic activity on the African continent, it is important to situate ASM in the sustainable development agenda.