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Talking sustainable development in the troubled world of ASM

Fitsum Weldegiorgis explores how artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) can make a positive contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is often seen as an unwelcome activity that degrades the environment, and has a negative impact on communities.

The sector, however, directly involves an estimated 25 million people (indirectly supporting 150 million), and provides essential livelihoods in some of the world's poorest and most marginalised regions.

As colleagues convening at the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Develop... in Geneva this week will discuss, ASM could make a significant contribution to sustainable development and to achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – if people-centred planning and responsible management are put at the heart of it.

All 17 of the UN's SDGs (PDF) are relevant to both the negative and positive impacts of mining, including ASM, and can therefore provide a new focus and increased ambition to channel the industry for sustainable development.

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Comment by Fitsum Weldegiorgis on November 2, 2016 at 10:49
@Andres, i could not agree more. Whether we want to address poverty; mitigate negative impacts to the environment, health and societal fabric; or promote viable economic benefit in an ASM community it is imperative to propertly face the sector from a holistic approach. We can not simply avoid it.
Comment by Andres Recalde on November 2, 2016 at 1:39

Very interesting analysis in the connection between SDGs and ASM.

I am now convinced that ASM should be approached as poverty alleviation instead as a mining operation. The efficiency and knowledge to do proper mining is barely there. Instead you have thousands of people that take high risk to make a living extracting some mineral. If you add to it red tape, intricate regulations and corruption then you ended with a loop difficult to solve.

That ASM could bring some progress towards the SDGs is true. But the sector needs more accommodation from government in terms of regulation and compliance. Some governments simply put ASM under the same regulation framework of big and medium mining companies. This is nonsense. The result is informality and illegal trade of ore.

ASM is there and it is not going to go soon.

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