Ecological and health implications of open pit artisanal gold mining


The definition of artisanal small scale mining varies from country to country. Variables like investment costs, mine output, labour productivity, and size of concessions, amount of resources, annual sales and levels of technology are used to define it. This research, however, defines artisanal small scale mining as an activity that encompasses small, medium, informal, legal and illegal miners who use rudimentary methods and processes to extract mineral resources. These miners are unskilled, underequipped and not knowledgeable and have little appreciation of the environment. For the purposes of this research, such mines are individual enterprises or small family owned companies not affiliated to multinational companies as well as gold panners. In this research there are instances where the term ―gold panners is used to refer to artisanal small scale miners.

Studies on the impacts of artisanal small scale gold mining have not been extensively carried out despite the fact that it employs more people than large scale mining. Numerous environmental and social impacts from artisanal small scale mining are gaining interest. Artisanal small scale gold mining has intensified due to rising poverty levels and perennial droughts that have been affecting the most African countries over the past decade. The importance of artisanal small scale gold mining is reinforced by the fact that in the past few years it has become the main source of cash income in place of animal farming. Artisanal small scale gold mining therefore, serves as a source of livelihood and income as it has become the major source of cash income. Traditionally, people in rural dwellers made their living from subsistence crop production and livestock rearing. In the recent past, households that relied on rain fed agriculture had continuously faced substantial food insecurity due to increased population thus pressure on land for settlement.

Diversification into artisanal small scale gold mining in areas such as Rongo district in Kenya, while providing employment and livelihoods to many, poses ecological problems. The negative impacts of artisanal small scale gold mining in the district are deforestation, land degradation, deterioration of water and air quality, depletion of water resources, loss of grazing land and the overall reduction in biodiversity. The nature of the mining activity promotes destruction of large tracts of land through, deforestation and land degradation. The practice has also become the worst enemy of water, air and the general biodiversity posing a threat to the ecosystem survival.

Environmental degradation has reduced the capacity of the ecosystem to meet the future needs of people for food and other products, and to protect them from flood and drought hazards. The degradation and loss of the ecosystem is capable of worsening negative impacts on human well-being such as reduced availability of goods and services to local communities, increased spread of diseases and reduced economic activity.

The gold panning process on the river banks, beds and the surrounding areas discharges huge amounts of loose silt and heavy metals into the river system. The research therefore seeks to investigate in depth the impacts of artisanal gold mining. A better understanding of the processes that lead to environmental problems can help promote environmentally friendly gold mining practices.

Soil and water quality are sensitive variables as they are the main drivers of ecosystems. These two are deemed to be victims of contamination and resultant pollution from highly toxic chemicals used in the processing of gold by the gold panners. To accomplish the concentration and amalgamation process gold panners use mercury. Mercury is a harmful substance to humans, animals and aquatic life, either indirectly or directly through bioaccumulation in the food chains. Use of mercury in the extraction and processing of gold therefore is posing a threat to humans and aquatic life. According to the UNDP report mercury is a poisonous substance when either inhaled or washed away. It causes lung cancer and skin disease if inhaled and if washed away during the amalgamation process, it settles into the surrounding environment, where it is absorbed and processed by a variety of living organisms. Mercury used by panners is discharged in an abusive manner into ecosystems. UNDP in its report further notes that the amalgamation process transforms mercury into a highly toxic substance. It echoes that: ―This process transforms elemental mercury into methyl mercury. Methyl mercury is one of the most toxic organic compounds and a powerful neurotoxin that works its way up the food chain through bioaccumulation.

Most African countries therefore, have not paid enough attention to the impact of mercury contamination as a result of artisanal gold mining activities. The reasons are partially because there is no state of the art equipment such as the ―ultra – clean free – metal sampling protocol to be used in carrying out studies to predict the potential impacts of mercury poisoning on humans and aquatic life. The use of mercury has polluted the water bodies and gold panning has contributed to the siltation of rivers and reservoirs resulting in reduced volume and quality of water a dam can hold.

Human beings, the key variable in perpetuating the degradation of ecosystems also suffer from their own creation. It has been noted that environmental health problems, especially from fire and unsafe mining operations, are on the increase. There have been deaths and injuries associated with artisanal gold mining. The immediate environmental health problems identified are injuries and deaths of humans as well as animals due to shaft collapse and excavations. There are also effects that are not immediate such as increased mortality as a result of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Poisoning of animals, both wildlife and domesticated ones, as well as humans caused by toxic concentrations of elements such as mercury.

The resultant scenario from artisanal small scale gold mining on the ecology has been the fragmentation of ecosystems and habitats, obstructing migratory routes to breeding and feeding grounds used by wildlife and depletion of fisheries.

Artisanal small scale gold mining will, if conducted in an appropriate manner generate significant benefits. However, the poor health and safety record and use of environmentally destructive mining and processing practices have drawn much negativity and criticism to the sector.

Impacts related to small scale artisanal mining

ASM is rudimentary and highly migratory in nature. Experts note that from a structural and technical perspective, ASM is conducted on a very rudimentary level using basic tools such as picks and shovels – because of their nature that these operations feature poor environmental management practices and safety conditions. As a result the environmental degradation caused by ASM; it is growing with the intensification and growth of artisanal mining. This is further aggravated by the fact that institutions responsible for managing the environment are unable to effectively carry out regulatory and monitoring mandates due to lack of resources. The practice results in physical environmental damage to rivers with consequent siltation of rivers, weirs and dams downstream. Some artisanal miners use mercury to recover gold resulting in contamination of river systems thereby posing danger of poisoning plant and animal life dependent on these river systems for survival.

 Physical Environment

a. Economic Resources

Trees are often cut down for firewood, building material, fencing and fuel leading to deforestation and subsequent land degradation (Hinton 2005) Illegal gold panning takes place majorly on river beds and on the adjacent river banks as well as on virgin land where gold reefs have been identified. The environmental impacts of the activity are always easily identified even though difficult to quantify. Although gold panning is deemed by many as a source of employment, a strategy seeking to cushion people livelihoods against such shocks as drought, the economic impacts are difficult to measure as most people engaged in the exercise are young men, women and children whose money is mainly spent in night clubs, and only little income is left for the households.

b. Threats to biodiversity

The following are environmental problems and their possible causes as a result of artisanal small scale mining and or gold panning in the Amazon basin. The set of problems caused by the clearing of land include soil erosion, siltation, and soil compaction, destruction of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity. Water pollution causes the destruction of aquatic ecosystems, plant life and depletion of fresh water resources. The third set of problems are those caused by air pollution and they are ozone depletion which protects short-wave radiation from the sun and global warming in which greenhouse gases trap long wave radiation thereby increasing the temperature on the earth‘s surface. Noise pollution from stamp mills, pan dishes and blasting also causes ill health, loss of hearing and migration of wild life and birds. Land degradation as well result in the loss of the landscape aesthetic value as mining activities leaves open pits and mounds of sand.

c. Vegetation destruction

Dreschler (2001) argues that when the miners discover a lucrative area, they construct makeshift homes out of pole and dagga using local trees. Artisanal small scale gold miners are responsible for the clearing of extensive areas for fuel and infrastructural development in areas where those mines are located. This is as a result of the nomadic nature of artisanal small scale gold mining. The interesting point to note is that 100% of the miners‟ fuel needs come from wood. These rapid overnight settlements as observed in newly discovered gold and gemstone areas does not only result in rampant deforestation, but also social ills associated with urbanization which include alcohol abuse, prostitution, land use conflicts with local communities as well as water pollution, child labour and diseases. He goes on to say that the excess reliance on wood as a source of energy results in the reduction of biodiversity and increasing rates of deforestation. For instance about four million tonnes of wood is used in Zimbabwe every year as fuel which translates to massive deforestation.

d. Land Degradation and Siltation

Land degradation as a composite term defined as sustained loss in the quality and the productive capacity of the land. UNCED in a FAO discussion paper refers to desertification and land degradation as one. Land degradation threatens the economic and physical survival and leads to household and national food insecurity in many countries. A common indicator of land degradation is chiefly soil erosion among the reduction in vegetation cover and changes in vegetation composition. Artisanal Small scale miners occupy and utilize about 0.005% of total land in use (Dreschler, 2001), but they move a huge volume of about ten million tonnes of rock material per year. These figures show that the risk accumulation process as a result, is massive. Researchers argue that the environmental impacts of individual operations are not necessarily significant; the accumulated impacts of numerous artisanal small scale mining operations can create serious problems for ecosystems and local communities.

Dreschler (2001) argues that 80% of the operations are open casts or shallow pits less than 30m deep and there are left uncovered and unprotected. This kind of land disturbance resulting from gold panning activities leave a noticeable effect on the siltation of rivers and dams, deterioration of water quality, reduction of grazing land for animals and the overall reduction in biodiversity.

e. Depletion of ground and surface waters

Absolute dependence on the use of large volumes of water dictates the location of mining operations close to water sources or right at the water source. Generally, research has indicated that artisanal gold mining puts a lot of strain on water as a resource. The activities of artisanal small scale mining in the Amazon basin have the potential to promote water pollution and depletion of both surface and natural underground sources as they are highly dependent on water. He further notes that the miners in the concerned district carry out their sieving and amalgamation process on the river bed and as such contribute to accelerated evaporation of surface water, drainage of wetlands and the siltation of rivers and dams. This has the overall net effect of promoting dry conditions as well as flooding respectively. For instance, frequent flooding of low-lying areas especially in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe has been attributed to the siltation of dams, rivers and lakes. Furthermore, ore and waste stockpiles established on surface has a negative impact on the environment. These contain significant amounts of sulphides and, with the passage of time, heavy metals, sulphates and other pollutants are dissolved and leached out by precipitation into local streams and community water sources. The impact of mineral pollution on an ecosystem may be severe and may result in the total elimination of animal life from the receiving waters. There has also been an emergency of invasive alien species on the stockpiles. According to Dreschler (2001) artisanal small scale gold mining is associated with mushrooming of unplanned squatter camps located close to water courses with poor or no sanitary facilities. This development has high chances of considerable amount of water pollution from human waste.

f. Soil Erosion

Closely linked with vegetation destruction and land degradation is the case of soil erosion. Gold panners as argued by Dreschler (2001) move an average of eight million tonnes of material for panning per year, and this ends up in the streams and dams as silt.

g. Dust and noise

Dreschler (2001) in his study finds that the widespread use of pestle and mortar generates fine quartz dust, which is inhaled by those involved (mostly women) in the process. The dust and fumes generated by blasting are quickly diluted and dispersed as most operations are shallow workings. He also notes that noise, dust and blasting vibrations produced in artisanal small scale mining operations are by no means comparable to that produced in large scale mining operations which are a common feature in large scale mines. In artisanal small scale mines these are almost non-existent. The miners access explosives through illegal means as they should be kept in safe places.

Social and health impacts

a. Mercury Poisoning, Health and Safety

The use of mercury in the amalgamation process of gold pollutes water and ecosystems. Dreschler (2001) argues that the main pollutants are mercury and cyanide, and to some extent human excrete because of lack of sanitation facilities. In alluvial gold panning operations, mineral concentration is conducted ―by the use of gravity separation through the medium of water using panning dishes and sluice boxes. In a study in Tanzania, 78% of water samples tested in the Lake Victoria Goldfields contained mercury in concentrations high above the drinking water standard of 1g/l. This scenario is believed to be similar in countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique since use of mercury by artisanal small scale mining is extensive as well. Mercury is poisonous to humans and aquatic based food chains through bioaccumulation. Dreschler (2001) notes that the use of mercury in Zimbabwe is widespread, effective, simple and cheap with as much as up to 2g per gram of gold (Au) recovered. It is used with the view that the more the mercury used the more Au is recovered.

b. Drug Abuse

It has been found out that drug abuse is rampant among illegal small-scale miners, who believe that drugs can help them work harder. The commonest drug frequently abused is marijuana.

c. Prostitution

There are two main types of sex workers. These are mobile sex workers and resident sex workers. The resident ones service the local gold mine operators and the low ranking workers employed by the companies. These ones target the expatriate workers, high ranking officials in the companies and those they refer to as ―buyers who come to buy gold from the local operators. Young women and girls migrate to mining areas with the intention of trading or to find jobs, and when they are unsuccessful they resort to prostitution which they claim is more lucrative than the trading. This has resulted in an increase in HIV/AIDs cases in the area.

d. Land use conflict

The coming of surface mining in an area does not only abuse the human rights of the indigenous people but also brings different problems about land use. The mining companies have large tracts of land for their operations and farming is not allowed in their concession areas unless authorized by the companies. Even if permission is granted, the farmers are allowed to grow seasonal crops such as cassava, maize, vegetables. It is noted that mining activities both large and small share space with agriculture, timber and other activities.

e. Child labour

Most artisanal mining in the developing countries involve young children who are either working with other members of their family or others who just go there to sustain their own livelihoods like the orphans. This factor leads to many children dropping out of school and others failing to attend school completely from childhood.

Challenges facing artisanal gold mining

a. Vulnerability

ASM is frequently driven by vulnerability, offering a (often short-term) coping mechanism for poverty. Vulnerability‘ is a person‘s (or group‘s) particular characteristics or situation that influences their ability to anticipate and overcome shocks and hazards. People are vulnerable when they have limited ability to overcome unpredictable crises and shocks such as floods, drought, sickness, environmental degradation and worsening terms of trade. Poor people are especially vulnerable, as they have few buffers or resources to cope with hazards or shocks. Understanding poverty reduction requires an understanding of vulnerability.

For example, gold mining is no longer just a boom and bust activity, but one driven by the inherent vulnerabilities of poverty (although there are some who continue to be driven by opportunism). Gold is currency for people who are unable to participate in the cash economy. Its high margins and low barriers to entry make it a highly lucrative activity for those with little human, physical and financial capital. ASM can thus provide a relief to vulnerability, particularly where resources are invested wisely.

b. Marginalisation

The Hivos–IIED Knowledge Programme on small producer agency describes small-scale farmers‘ by their degree of marginalization rather than the size of their land or scale recognizing that size does not always equate to prosperity. The same approach can be applied to artisanal and small-scale miners, regardless of their exact size, level of mechanization, etc.

ASM faces the same marginalisation as other small-scale sectors. Many miners operate in remote regions with poor transport and market access, suffering geographical marginalisation that makes them less able to access information, key technologies and inputs. It also leads to political marginalisation, as communities far from the capital or centre are less able to influence policy and keep in sight of policymakers.

Small-scale producers may be marginalised in terms of access to markets forced to sell through informal, illegal or less lucrative channels. Marginalisation is often linked to food insecurity. Concern International defines marginalised farmers as farming yet hungry. The same approach can be applied to ASM mining yet hungry meaning the miners have insufficient assets or income to purchase adequate food for themselves or their dependents.

c. Informality

Informality here refers to operating without an applicable or appropriate legal framework. It was once considered synonymous with subsistence activities that offer no real opportunity for economic development. More recently, interpretations have become more nuanced. Informality can represent innovation and dynamism, and can offer poor producers and accessible route into economic activity. However, it can also exacerbate problems of marginalization and vulnerability. Informality marginalizes a community politically, economically and even socially. Informality can both increase resilience by providing an economic livelihood activity and increase vulnerability as it removes the protections and opportunities provided by the government.

ASM is informal, but miners are not alone. Many small-scale producers in natural resources sectors operate informally and often this is the norm. In Bolivia, for example, people use the term popular economy or people‘s economy. This resonates with the Walle and Jennings (2001) definition of informality as a way of doing things defined by:

 low entry barriers to entrepreneurship in terms of skills and capital requirements;

 family ownership of enterprises

 small scale of operation

 intensive production with outdated technology

 Unregulated and competitive markets.

Often, informality dominates because of formidable obstacles to formalization. These processes tend to be overly complicated and bureaucratic, centrally determined and managed, reliant on the state for regulation, and lacking social relevance. This is both symptomatic of and exacerbates geographic, political and social marginalization. Informal systems often have rules and processes based on years of social and cultural tradition. Regulation is through cultural norms and social contracts a form of legal pluralism‘ in which traditional, informal and formal rules overlap and operate simultaneously.

d. Inherent structural challenges

The structural dynamics of the ASM sector are poorly understood. Despite significant documentation of ASM‘s environmental and socio-economic impacts there continues to be very little baseline information on how operators and activities are organized. ASM sector is often perceived, understood and approached as the problem framing and within which certain trends begin to emerge that reveal what marginalization, vulnerability and informality mean for ASM. These include:

 Weak legislation, policies and implementation and often government marginalisation or repression (favouring LSM at the expense of ASM);

 Cultural marginalisation and exclusion of certain demographic groups;

 Low barriers to entry into informal or illegal ASM with its poor social and environmental protections;

 Lack of legal protection for land and resource rights;

 Poverty-driven, short-term decision making;

 Uncontrolled migration;

 Poor access to financial services, market information, technology and geological data;

 Political exclusion (meaning miners are often excluded from decision making at various levels) and policy blindness;

 Lack of baseline/census data on ASM individuals and communities; and

 Reliance on mining in ASM communities due to vulnerability and marginalisation.

Structural challenges can vary dramatically by region or geography. For example, child labour in ASM varies between Latin America, Asia and Africa. In Latin America, where ASM has a long history, children‘s involvement is part of that long tradition. In Asia, the private sector‘s involvement in ASM means there is less child labour. In South Asia the traditional stratifications of society means child labour is often seen alongside social marginalisation. And in Africa, where ASM is associated with civil war and conflict, weak government and social institutions means children are forced into mining through need

Case Study

Analysis of formalization approaches in the artisanal small-scale gold mining sector

Tanzania case study

Over the past three decades, the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector in Tanzania has been increasingly important for poverty alleviation nationally. Tanzania, Africa‘s fourth largest producer of gold (after South Africa, Ghana, and Mali), is experiencing a boom in its mining industry. ASGM activities, taking place in many regions of the country, play a significant role both as a direct source of employment in mining communities and in generating additional jobs and revenues in the rural economy. Tanzania‘s mainly informal ASGM sector began to grow in the 1980s. The downturn in the performance of other productive industries, poor markets for agriculture, droughts, and other factors have been associated with the increase in the number of people working in ASGM in the 1980s and 1990s. A report by one of Tanzania‘s regional small-scale mining associations notes: ―The closure of state-owned mines in the 1980s and privately owned mines in Tanzania in the early 1960s forced semi-skilled people to opt for artisanal mining. Another factor is that from 1970 to 1990, the government had long and complicated processes for granting mineral rights to applicants [increasing] the number of informal artisanal miners. In the 1990s, when large tracts of land were allocated to large companies as part of a national economic reform process, many farmers became reliant on artisanal mining. The rise in gold prices globally has been a factor in attracting people into the ASGM sector, but researchers widely recognize that most ASGM in Tanzania is driven fundamentally by critically limited livelihood options. Diverse types of mineral extraction are important in Tanzania‘s artisanal and small-scale mining sector. Operations range from semi-mechanized and mechanized mining to the extraction of minerals using simple technologies with little or no economic capital and no mechanization. It is emphasized in studies that ASGM should be accorded careful regulatory attention, to address different types of mining operations and to ensure and improve their contribution to poverty alleviation and rural development. These activities involve gold production from both alluvial deposits and hard rock mining, and gold rushes have taken place in multiple regions of the country, especially in the area near Lake Victoria in the North.

Estimates of the number of artisanal and small-scale miners in Tanzania range from 500,000 to 1.5 million the government has estimated that small-scale mining generates at least three jobs for each individual directly involved. Gold and gemstones are the most widely extracted minerals by artisanal and small-scale miners, and the artisanal diamond mining sector has also been growing in recent years. National gold exports reached US $1.076 billion in 2009, up from US $932.4 million the previous year – including all large, medium, and small-scale mining operations. Artisanal and small- scale gold mining may account for approximately 10% of Tanzanian gold production, though most of the small-scale mining activities are currently informal (i.e., not licensed officially).

The 1979 Mining Act created opportunities for small-scale mining by allowing mining permits in areas designated for mineral prospecting that did not require large expenditures and specialized equipment. In the late 1980s, the government began to support new opportunities for small-scale mining communities when it ended the monopoly of the State Mining Company and began liberalizing the mining and selling of gold. The government‘s Small-Scale Mining Policy Paper of 1983 encouraged citizens to supplement their incomes by participating in mining activities. In the 1990s, the government developed a legal and policy framework for formally integrating small-scale mining into a national mineral development strategy, introducing the Tanzanian Mining Policy of 1997 and the Mining Act of 1998, components of a mining policy reform process that was supported by the World Bank. Among other policy aims, the reforms included the aim of legalizing and formalizing the small-scale mining sector by establishing a suite of basic environmental and safety standards for ASGM along with a new permitting system. At the same time it passed the 1998 Mining Act, though, the government prioritized the development of large and medium-scale mining as an economic strategy, leading to many large tracts of land being allocated to larger companies. Since then, a number of public debates have emerged on Tanzanian mining policy, highlighting a need for allocating land for artisanal and small-scale mining activities specifically and making the licensing system more equitable and accessible to marginalized groups. Although national poverty reduction papers in the early 2000s overlooked artisanal mining, by 2005 they began to emphasize that, ―the livelihoods of artisanal miners need to be balanced with commercial The Ministry of Energy and Minerals formulated strategies aimed at developing small-scale mining, initiating measures for improving information and statistics on ASGM, and developing extension services aimed at assisting miners to improve technologies. Government policy papers recognized that detailed knowledge of dynamics in mining communities is vital to regulate extraction activities effectively, and the official government policy objectives have been to promote small-scale mining cooperatives, to support the improvement of equipment in small- scale mining, to encourage partnerships between small-scale miners and companies, and to deliver assistance to mineworkers through technical training at selected sites. Responding to a number of concerns about mining laws, the President of Tanzania commissioned a high-level review of mining legislation and policies in 2008, led by the Bomani Presidential Mining Sector Review Committee. The findings of the Bomani Review Committee emphasized the need to amend the mining legal framework and associated mining policies, particularly so that Tanzanian citizens have greater opportunities to benefit from and participate in the mining sector. This led to a new Mining Law being passed in 2010. The analysis in Table 1 highlights four key evolving areas of national policy and how they generate shifting sets of possibilities and lessons for formalizing ASGM activities. The diversity of ASGM activities presents a complex set of challenges and opportunities. Many perspectives exist when it comes to understanding what artisanal and small-scale mining entails and which issues should be prioritized in Tanzanian regulatory strategies. Studies emphasize the contribution this sector can make to poverty alleviation in Tanzania, but they also note that problems of labour exploitation, smuggling, and land use conflicts need to be addressed in policy measures to license and regulate miners. Mercury amalgamation, a simple and inexpensive way to extract gold, is the most commonly used method, thus ASGM also poses significant environmental and health risks arising from mercury use.

The Government of Tanzania learned key lessons by collaborating with development institutions, researchers, and civil society organizations to address ASGM practices. Some pilot programs generated important benefits, particularly in minimizing mercury use and developing local capacities for upgrading technologies and reducing health risks. In 2006, the government partnered with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to develop a ―Manual for Training Artisanal Miners and create training programs in selected ASGM communities in Geita District. The initiative involved a ―train-the-trainer‖ exercise in which a team of local mining engineers, nurses, environmental management specialists, and others worked together to implement a program of capacity-building at selected sites.

Recommended action plans for sustainable management and development

For many centuries the small scale mining of precious minerals has made a significant impact on the socio-economic as well as environmental situations of people and communities involved directly or indirectly in the sector.

Sustainable development of minerals and other natural resources has been endorsed as a global management and development strategy environmental, economic and social developments have been highlighted as the three pillars of sustainable development and their integration is encouraged.

There are however several arguments about the applicability of these concepts in the mineral industry, especially the small scale mineral industry, since minerals are non-renewable resources that are subject to exhaustion in the course of production. The exhaustible nature of these resources places a limit on growth of these industries and hence heir sustainability.

In Ghana for instance there is an ongoing discussion by the stakeholders in the mining industry on measures to mitigate the negative effects of small scale gold mining and to help the industry develop in a sustainable manner.

Theoretical framework

Community participation theory

Community Participation theory involves five main principles or premises that involve: Top- down management approaches, mobilization of human capital and resources, community knowledge of problems and their solutions, capacity development and involvement of affected communities. This is done to make the discussion more focused and ensure a flow of analysis as outlined by the framework.

a. Top Down Management of Impacts

In the literature, the term „top-down approach‟ has been defined variously. However, I choose to define the term as the an approach to management in which decisions are determined and made by top officials of government, institutions and experts without direct grassroots involvement and participation in the decision- making process. One major characteristic of most development projects is the tendency for these projects to be developed and initiated by so called experts and technocrats and then imposed on the people for whom they were meant without their participation and involvement in the determination, design and implementation of the projects. Being aware of the major social and environmental impacts that their mining activities is having on the people, the companies have to take steps to manage and deal with such impacts on the people to ensure that the people live normal lives. However, the extent to which the community is involved or participates in the development of these impact management strategies is of much concern to this research. The Community Participation Model notes that „top down‟ approaches usually fail to resolve many problems for which they are designed and hence advocates for a much more „bottom up‟ approaches to solving problems. The aim is to ensure the sustainability

b. Mobilization of human capital and resources: Coping with mining impacts

Adam Smith defined human capital or human resources as ―the acquired and useful abilities of all the inhabitants or members of the society. The acquisition of such talents, by the maintenance of the acquirer during his education, study, or apprenticeship, always costs a real expense, which is a capital fixed and realized, as it were, in his person‖. By extension, all people wherever they are, have very vital abilities and capacities that can be harnessed effectively to bring about required levels of development in the community or society whether it was acquired through education or imbibed in the very person by virtue of his birth or existence. At the very basic level, the people have to take giant steps in managing the impacts that mining has unleashed on them in the community. Most people in the community have naturally developed their own coping and survival mechanisms in response to the impacts that mining is having on their lives in order to survive. Solely individual households and residents developed these mechanisms themselves without the help of any external body. For most residents, coping with or managing major social impacts such as crime and conflict, prostitution, escalating prices of goods, services and food commodities, and the lack of infrastructure does not lie within their capabilities. This is because to them they lack the technical and expert capacities to manage and deal with such impacts. In terms of social impacts, employment is the only impact that the people have naturally developed their own way of managing the unemployment situation.

One major principle that underlines the community participation model is to see the community as partners in development and not passive recipients of development. In fact, community engagement and social license are mutually reinforcing and parallel processes that occur both as cause and consequence of addressing and managing social and economic impacts at the community level.

c. Community Knowledge of Problems and their Solutions

Community Knowledge has been defined as the vast and vague information that communities possess which enables them to interpret the everyday world and also identify a menu of possibilities for asserting and responding to our own needs and aspirations and the needs and aspirations of others. This by implication is that the community residents are the very people who own their problems and it is the same people who have the best solutions to them among the very many possible alternatives for solving the problems. Therefore, development initiative or programmes cannot be developed with them in isolation. This is the situation because if the people demonstrate great deal of knowledge about the problems that they are facing individually and collectively as community members and would also give various measures that could be implemented to manage and solve these problems especially those that are the direct and indirect result of the mining activities.

d. Capacity Development

Developing the capacities of people is one major and surest way to help people to manage and deal with major development problems and is adequately espoused by the Community Participation Model by Botterill and Fisher. This is because it would better equip people with the skills and abilities to deal with problems on their own without dependence on external help.

Capacity Development is ―the process by which individuals groups, organizations, institutions and societies increase their abilities: to perform functions solve problems and achieve objectives; to understand and deal with their development need in a broader context and in a sustainable manner”.

The management of mining impacts would be very sustainable and achieve the desired results if the capacities of the people who are impacted are adequately developed to manage the impacts. The people undoubtedly understand their problems best and know their solutions. However, what is most needed is the necessarily capacity to sustain such solutions developed to manage the impacts. For most social problems, people lack adequate technical and logistical capacities to deal with them even though

they have ideas about possible solutions. However, community residents can deal with the major social and environmental problems if they are adequately developed and empowered to do so. This development takes the form of training people with the requisite skills and technical abilities in dealing and managing

Conceptual framework

Conceptually, I represent this model below:

Figure: Community Participation Model

According to the Botterill and Fisher, the application of the model to the Australian Landcare Programme, Coastcare, Dunecare and the Fisheries Action Program has been very successful and has been implemented in many European Commission and Commonwealth countries. I therefore intend to apply this model and its basic premises to the mining situation and how its application could help to achieve the sustainability of Impact Management Strategies in the community as developed by the mining companies. Particularly of much importance would be to discuss and assess the findings on the extent to which the community is involved by companies in the management of the social and environmental impacts of their mining activities. Attention would be placed on how the community as a whole is involved in the design and implementation of various impact management strategies and measures and the mechanism for community involvement. The nature of existing impact management strategies would be assessed and their level of community participation would be discussed. From the conceptual framework above, the belief is that the active participation of the community in managing the impacts of mining is an effective means and mechanism in ensuring the sustainability of impact management strategies and various development programes introduced by mining companies and also helping the people to adjust to the impacts. The community is hence, regarded as partners with the mining companies in managing the impacts of mining in the community because they are seen as also possessing certain capacities and resources that could be utilized by the companies who also possess certain capacities that the community lacks. The amalgamation of these capacities and resources from both the community and the companies is essential in securing the commitment of the community in ensuring the sustainability of impact management strategies.

Conclusion and recommendations

In light of the foregoing discussion it is clear that artisanal small scale gold mining poses a serious threat to the ecology which in turn jeopardises human lives and their livelihoods if the problem remains unabated. The cascading effects of vegetation degradation, land degradation, and water pollution may appear insignificant to some populations, but are real and their cumulative effect needs to be mitigated to reduce their impact. It needs to be stated that such environmental elements under threat as water, land, soil are non-renewable economic resources that man depend on for survival. Thus for man to continue enjoying these benefits sustainable means of exploitation are crucial. It is however important to note that stopping artisanal gold mining at the moment is not a viable solution since people are being forced into the activity mainly by lack of employment, and general poverty. Since gold mining seems to be one of the meaningful income generating project for many, the government and the whole community therefore needs to come up with strategies that seek to reduce destruction of the ecological system. Such strategies as discussed below include policing, penalties, taxes, provision of mining licenses at affordable fees, equipment, training and environmental awareness campaigns and education to both informal and formal small scale gold miners:

  • Policing: In most cases there are no clear rules and regulations governing gold panning operations, no one wants to be involved in problems pertaining to such an activity because it is deemed illegal. However, ignoring it is not helpful at all because it is something already going on in the country and it has got adverse effect to almost every citizen one way or the other. First and foremost it is necessary to have a policy aimed at mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in all artisanal small scale gold mining activities. Therefore there is a need for a collaborative effort amongst key ministries and stakeholders concerned with land and natural resources to come together and come up with a policy that will guide prevention and mitigatory plans in artisanal gold mining activities.
  • Raising awareness and environmental education: Most artisanal small scale miners are ignorant of long-term effects of their activities. Therefore there is need for extensive education to the local community about the environmental dangers and their long-term effects and conscientising them of the need for health ecosystems. Miners need to be taught on the risks involved in chemicals they are using. To reduce unplanned destruction of natural resources Miners need to be made aware that the environment is for future generation for them to mine with due care.
  • Training: Mining is an activity that requires a skill for it to be carried out sustainably. Thus the government need to take it upon themselves to organise training workshops for artisanal small scale miners in order to reduce associated disaster risks.
  • Licensing and giving permanent claims to miners: It is imperative to regularise and formalise all gold mining activities through licensing, giving permanent claims and operating permits to miners to recoup some of the added costs in the form of taxes.
  • Mechanisation: The government needs to offer help to miners in the form of loans, safety clothing and machinery to improve on their activity. They can also be encouraged to form cooperatives where they will mine sustainably and create formal employment. The government also needs to create investor confidence so that investors can come and mine thus creating jobs for locals.
  • Land rehabilitation: To reduce land degradation and ecosystems disruptions, artisanal small scale gold miners have to backfill their excavations. This will go a long way in protecting wildlife and livestock from falling into pits. According to the requirements of the Forest Commission one has to plant two trees after cutting one tree. Thus panners need to be encouraged to practise such ethics if the environment is to be sustained. Miners have to be part of EIAs process so that they can understand and implement safer methods. Taxes and fines paid by offenders should be channelled into projects that seek to mitigate against water pollution, deforestation, land degradation and loss of biodiversity in the town.


Dreschler, B. 2001.Small scale mining and sustainable development within the SADC region: Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development. No. 84. England: SANTREN/ ITDG.

Hinton, J. J. (2005). Earthworms as bioindicators of mercury pollution from mining and other industrial activities, Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment and Analysis in press.

Walle M, Jennings N. Safety and Health in Small-scale Surface Mines: A Handbook, International Labour Office (ILO) Working Paper 168, ILO Publications, Geneva, Switzerland 2001, p. 48.

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