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Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)


ASM world map

Artisanal and small-scale mining

Challenges faced by ASM in Africa... include inadequate policy and regulatory frameworks; limited technical capacity and access to appropriate technology (and consequent environmental degradation); lack of finance; inadequate access to exploration and mining areas; difficulties in accessing the market; issues associated with conflict minerals; and women and child labour concerns. The opportunity for ASM to be transformed into a tool for sustainable development, particularly in rural areas, can thus be realised only if these challenges are met holistically.

Minerals and Africa’s Development. The International Study Group Report on Africa’s Mineral Regimes, commissioned by the African Union

During our discussions with the sustainability review panel in September 2011, it was suggested that there would be particular value in focusing on the interrelationships between three macro (although by no means universal) trends, at a company level and internationally, these areas being:

  • the growing challenge of unemployment, inequity and poverty;
  • the rise of resource nationalism, not just in South Africa, but internationally; and
  • the growth of artisanal mining, both locally routed and more increasingly with international value chains.

In this section we describe the company’s approach to ASM although we recognise that it is linked to unemployment, inequity, poverty and resource nationalism.

ASM is a centuries old activity. However the management of this issue, particularly in relationship to large-scale mining (LSM) is relatively new and rapidly evolving. The context in which ASM operates (and becomes legal or illegal) is in flux, is regulated by national governments and requires continuous refinement. LSM operators are still dealing with the complexity of the issues. Debate is open on how to craft a solution that involves government partnership, community engagement, land negotiations as well as specific community interventions including environmental improvements and the formalisation of ASM activity.

The definition of ASM includes the separate categories of artisanal and small-scale mining and is distinct from illegal activity, which includes theft and shrinkage. ASM provides a livelihood for many people but at the same time is associated with a number of negative impacts, including environmental degradation, flouting of land rights, poor working practices, erosion of civil society, human rights abuse and funding of conflict. Frequently, impacts arising from ASM are attributed to LSM, or it is assumed that artisanally-mined gold is channelled through LSM operators, even though ASM and LSM have distinct supply chains with different characteristics.

The company is seeking to address ASM on two levels: globally, at a strategic level that seeks to identify and develop best practice, and locally, at an operational level, tailoring solutions that respond to the situation on the ground.

AngloGold Ashanti operates in seven of the top 15 artisanal gold-producing countries. It therefore participates in developing effective mechanisms for understanding and managing ASM with support from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the World Gold Council and the World Bank, which includes a renewed initiative on the Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) initiative of the World Bank. Each country and region has a different context and therefore a single solution is not evident. A global guideline and framework is however required to guide and develop local strategies and AngloGold Ashanti will work with industry participants and relevant international agencies to progress this in 2012, including through collaborative initiatives in Ghana and Tanzania. The first step in these initiatives will be to undertake a stakeholder mapping exercise to identify ASM representatives with whom engagement can take place. Guidance can then be developed on the basis of this engagement.

Our management focus is, therefore, in the following areas:

  • Ensuring compliance with the Dodd-Frank Act and responsible gold standards under development; See Responsible gold
  • Working to actively engage artisanal and small-scale miners at each of our affected sites to ensure peaceful co-existence with ASM participants that contributes to the long-term development of the areas;
  • Putting in place a framework to guide and assist operations in addressing the complexity of ASM;
  • Actively participating and leading global partners in addressing the complexity of ASM; and
  • Creating in-country and cross-country collaboration, where applicable, across our operating portfolio.
The El Retiro Mill in Gramalote, Colombia has been in operation for approximately 150 years.