Africa: Artisanal Mining Key to Africa's Development

HARNESSING the potential of Artisanal Small Scale Miners (ASM) is key in developing Africa's mineral sector and improving the livelihoods of its people.

Africa has a rich endowment of various minerals and accounts for 30 per cent of the world's mineral reserves.

The continent has reserves of metals such as copper, cobalt, iron, lithium and gold as well as of gemstones like emeralds, amethyst and tourmaline.

The mining and mineral sector is currently dominated by ASM mostly in gemstones and developmental minerals mining.

The ASM sector has for many years been a source of income for a significant portion of the informal sector, particularly women in Africa.

Globally, it's estimated that more than 40 million people work in this unregulated sector which is poverty driven.

In most African countries, ASM are facing various challenges like low productivity, limited information on geological data, lack of capital and equipment, limited access to markets and there is no regard for health and environmental standards and the absence of social security among them.

This sector is largely unregulated resulting in limited information on production, revenues, employment and operations.

Governments in many countries regard ASM as an illegal activity which consequently lack adequate regulatory and policy framework which prevents the formalisation of the sector.

ASM activities in Zambia are largely dominated by minerals such as amethyst, manganese, red garnet, topaz, emeralds, gold, tourmaline and copper ore dumpsites.

Despite the activities being in existence for many years, the sector has remained informal due to lack of information on how to conduct the activity.

For this reason, the Africa Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) is developing a Continental ASM Strategy that will be based on the African Mining Vision (AMV) outcome desire for "improved and sustainable entrepreneurship in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, leading to sustainable livelihoods and growth".

AMDC programmes officer Mkhululi Ncube says the ASM continental strategy will provide a road map for the continent in a manner that can provide granularity of implementation to country-level in line with the mining vision guidebook.

"The ASM strategy implementation plan will be allied to improving the viability, progressivity and sustainability of artisanal and small scale mining sector to enhance its contribution to growth and development through gaining access to training, extension services, finance, marketing and cleaner efficient technologies, "he said.

Mr Ncube explains that the ASM continental strategy implementation plan will align to the African Union delivery strategic plan for 2024 to 2028 and aligned to the agenda 2063.

Mr Ncube says the strategy will ensure advocacy for financial inclusion through mobile phone operators.

He says AMDC will use mobile phone operators to get accurate data on the number of ASM in Africa as it was currently in estimates.

The ASM associations and stakeholders from east and southern Africa recently convened in Dar es salaam, Tanzania for a consultative workshop on ASM continental strategy development.

The various associations proposed action that should be considered and fed into the continental strategy with the first step being the formalisation of the sector.

The ASM associations want the formalisation of the ASM sector in member States and draw lessons from Tanzania which has achieved 85 per cent formalisation.

The Emeralds and Semi-Precious Stones Mining Association of Zambia (ESMAZ) president is of the view that there should be provision of exploration equipment to define the geological data of their tenements.

ESMAZ president Victor Kalesha says the provision of equipment will empower ASM and thereby grow the mining industry and create the much needed jobs and wealth for the continent.

The Federation of Small Scale Miners of Zambia (FSSMAZ) says the strategy should include the reduction of various mineral taxes and fees by governments to help ASM grow and formalise their operations.

President Joseph Mwansa calls on African countries to look at the current needs of the international market and invest in training and development.

Emerging Namibia Mining Association president Teckla Mutero says there is need for support mechanisms to organise ASM operations in Africa.

Zimbabwean Women in Mining Association (ZWIMA) chairperson Kundai Chikonzo calls for support mechanisms to organise women ASM operators as the majority into association and cooperatives to make it easy for formalisation.

Kenya Chamber of Mines (KCM) president Patrick Kanyolo calls for the collaboration from practical perspectives in Africa.

Centre for Occupational Health and Environment in Africa (COEHA) says health of the ASM should be a priority in formalising their operations.

Chief executive officer Omer El-Nagieb says minerals such as silica are poisonous and can kill ASM and the people around their operations.

Delve Exchange-knowledge exchange coordinator Blessings Hungwe calls for the ASM to take care of their environment by land rehabilitation and tree planting.

The Federation of Miners Association of Tanzania (FAMATA) president Lister Bangelele says there is need to promote ASM inclusive dialogue and empowering players.

Oxford Kenya extractive strategist Alaka Lungozo calls for ASM policies that ensure information availability to communities through collaborations among regulators, industry and civil society.

While access to finance by ASM is a challenge due to lack of collateral, Aurelius Resources representative Tashinga Kanyemba calls for the provision of alternative financing models for ASM.

Woow Me Jewelry proprietor Meckdilder Mchomvu, who is into gemstones value addition, calls for technical intervention, investment in research and development to help build capacity of ASM in Africa.

The Africa Legal Service Foundation representative Steven Muhammad says while preparing for ASM growth, there was need for players to understand legal frameworks that safeguard their operations.

Mr Muhammad says there is need for ASM to know the laws which govern them as well as understand the contract that they enter into with other investors.

Africa Union Commission (AUC) acting director industry, minerals, entrepreneurship and tourism Chiza Chiumya says the strategy should include value addition of minerals produced in Africa.

Mr Chiumya says ASM can realise their potential through strategic collaborations and innovative approaches.

He calls on African countries to sign and ratify the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) statute as it can help them achieve progress and the development of the sector.

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