sharing in governance of extractive industries

Five Practical Solutions to Curbing Illegal Mining

From continent to continent, illegal miners have inadvertently destroyed ecologically sensitive lands, contaminated rivers and drinking water with mercury and other toxins, and otherwise exposed many communities to serious environmental and health risks.

For many in the gold mining industry in particular, illegal mining is seen as a factor most likely to dominate global mining challenges over the next 10 years. Recognizing that illegal mining cannot be completely eliminated, stakeholders can take steps to limit its expansion. Countering illegal mining requires a balanced, long-term strategy that confronts it both directly, and while addressing its root causes.

The following five policy-focused solutions are derived with the intention of providing practical, universal answers:

1) Identify and protect areas most susceptible to illegal mining activities

Because illegal mining generally occurs in abandoned shafts or within improperly closed mines, governments can implement intermediate and permanent measures to manage these sites and coordinate long-term monitoring systems. Areas around abandoned and closed mines can be designated 'high risk zones' and as such their access restricted.

2) Tighten regulatory controls on mine closures

To curb illegal mining, governments must ensure proper closure and security of all closed mines. In addition to financial guarantees, governments must insist that mining companies provide mine closure plans before granting permits. Contractual language can be employed to reinforce these efforts, wherein companies that fail to secure their closed mines are subject to face hefty penalties.

3) Establish a task-force to crackdown on illegal mining and trafficking

Not only do illegal miners operate without a permit, and on closed and abandoned mine sites, they also trespass on operating mines. The creation of a well-trained, mining-focused task force serves to enforce the ban on illegal mining, and protect license-holders whose mining areas are subject to these intrusions.

4) Monitor and regulate small-scale miners

Artisanal miners should be offered a channel to formally register with governmental agencies and should be encouraged to form local mining cooperatives. The cooperatives serve as a conduit to provide small-scale miners with the necessary skills training, including but not limited to education on the impact of irresponsible mining on health, safety and the environment. Permitting local mining cooperatives through this channel, enables the government to monitor and regulate mining practices and activities more closely.

5) Create alternative employment opportunities

So that local inhabitants are not driven to engage in illegal mining practices, providing economic opportunities to rural communities is a solution that has a lasting impact. Growth in non-mining sectors of the economy create alternative employment opportunities in rural areas, and encourages the migration of labor out of illegal mining.

These five solutions work best in tandem with one another as the nature and complexity of the problem necessitates a comprehensive approach.

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Comment by Paul Cisneros on March 6, 2018 at 15:26

Good post! I wonder how these five principles would change if we dropped the assumption that most illegal mining occurs in "abandoned shafts of improperly closed mines." This not the case in most of the American countries. In Ecuador, Peru or Brazil, most of the illegal mining occurs in remote areas of the rainforest. Illegal operators target the river banks in search of gold, and they are highly mobile. These characteristics make it hard for governments to form task-forces due to the resources needed to oversee vast territories where states often lack permanent presence or control.


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