Donors in the artisanal mining space have been around in the mining sector for many decades. At first, they were focused on definitional issues, defining artisanal mining, small-scale mining and so on. Then it moved on to the technical side where you had a lot of engineers and geologists providing technical assistance. Then in the early 1990s, people started realizing that we needed an integrated approach in order to make a difference over time.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, specialists started focusing on ASM-LSM cohabitation, and other sensitive human rights issues such as child labor and indigenous rights. In the 2000s, a lot of people started focusing on community-related issues and sustainable livelihoods.
In the last 5 years or so, a lot of artisanal mining specialists have been focusing on formalization, legalization, and professionalization. The idea within professionalization is that engineers, geologists, and others will help miners work better. Different donors are getting involved in that effort. For example, the government of Canada has been very active on this front and they’re investing in training centers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In Southern Ecuador for example, in the gold mining districts, there is a training center that has been established for the last few years and they’re hoping that it will be a training hub for the entire region.
One of the more exciting responses that we’ve seen recently is consumer-centric initiatives. Donors are responding to consumers’ increased interest in where their products are coming from and how they, as consumers, can help drive change. Tracking methods like the various blockchain models that are focusing on gold, cobalt and other precious metals are gaining interest as they improve supply chain visibility and ensure the absence of conflict materials reaching end-consumers. These donors work with artisanal mining organizations, whether they’re cooperatives or companies, to reach very high-performance standards.
Although there has been some significant progress these last few decades, what many initiatives focus on is improving business practices and models. Which, in essence, is downstream. One of the building blocks of Barksanem™’s mining vision is people and more broadly their community. The management team of Barksanem™ adhere to the belief that without people there is no business, no market, no supply chain, no value chain, no blockchain so-on, and so forth! Technology, organizations, capital and even the end product make sense only if people remain the primary intention of the entrepreneurial approach. As Claude Kabemba said at the ASM conference in Geneva on July 4th 2018, “Are we doing what we are doing to sleep better at night and ease our collective consciousness, or are we working for the people whose lives are directly affected by our initiatives?” This is the very reason Barksanem™ developed the Territorial Approach. Artisanal and small-scale mining must have a holistic approach!