EBRD Mining Workshop & Artisanal Mining

The report of the European Bank's (EBRD) November 2009 workshop on Environmental and Social Responsibility in Mining in London is now available. The event helped inform EBRD's preparation of its planned Mining Strategy (expected in 2010) and touched also on Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM). 

The 1-day invitation-only event was attended by nearly 80 participants from the international mining industry, industry associations, consultancies, law firms, academia, and NGOs, along with EBRD staff.  The most interesting presentation I attended was given by Kevin D’Souza (Wardell Armstrong). He highlighted challenges associated with the ASM sector. He identified abject poverty, under/unemployment (retrenchment), social/cultural pressure, and instability/conflict as some of the key drivers in the ASM sector. He also highlighted the ‘get rich quick’ mentality and the role of environmental shocks/natural disasters.  

Kevin’s presentation did not ‘romanticize’ the ASM sector. It touched on the uneasy relationship between ASM and large scale mining. He also warned against an academic approach, developing ‘dream list’ and grandiose declarations (all done multiple times already). Instead, he suggested the need for pragmatic solutions aimed at root causes. With large mining companies in mind, Kevin recommendations included taking an integrated approach involving operations, security, community affairs and government relations to develop a pragmatic ASM management plan.

Reflecting on my own experience with ASM activities in places like Venezuela and having carefully studied the prevailing literature and case studies (see also www.artisanalmining.org), it’s clear that ASM activities are not only the source of major and long term negative impacts – but also that the ASM sector is here to stay. Although reducing adverse impacts by, for example, ‘de-toxing’ the processes (reducing use of mercury) and ‘deflating’ the scale of the sector (providing alternative livelihoods), those with expectations of ‘quick fixes’ are bound to be disappointed.

To read the full EBRD workshop report, which was posted today, and access some of the presentations, please visit:

http://www.ebrd.com/oppor/ngo/new/mining.htm

What issues do you think the EBRD should address in its planned mining strategy? Also, what additionality could EBRD bring along with its investments in this sector?

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