Miners, Minerals and Minamata: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Artisanal Gold Mining and Sustainable Development
Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Marcello Veiga, Mining Engineering, Faculty of Mining UBC; Mr. Ludovic Bernaudat, UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Vienna, Austria.
Artisanal Gold Mining (AGM) supports 15-20 million livelihoods worldwide, with up to ten times that number of indirect dependents. Overall, artisanal miners operate in over 80 countries, accounting for 12-15% of global mineral production (IIED 2014; UNEP 2013). AGM can provide advantages in terms of wage creation for rural communities compared to agriculture, fishing and forestry, (Siegel & Veiga, 2009), but has traditionally been associated with illegal activity, land-use conflicts, social marginalization, gender discrimination, child labour, and poor environmental performance. Consequently, AGM has received a low proportion of development aid relative to its contribution to local livelihoods. Recognition of the sector’s connection to poverty alleviation and conflict mitigation between artisanal miners and large-scale mining companies has rapidly increased in the last decade.
Academic institutes, the United Nations and development agencies support advancement of AGM as a livelihood strategy. While there is a growing body of literature and continued development of best practices to minimize adverse social and environmental impacts in mining communities. Despite recent progress, complex global challenges remain. Addressing the complex impacts associated with AGM will require integrated and interdisciplinary approaches to assess gaps and prioritize key development issues; e.g. poverty, land tenure, legalization, food security, labor productivity, anti-corruption, human rights, and gender dimensions.
Our Roundtable objective is to identify gaps, prioritize research areas to advance knowledge and propose coordinated projects among technical experts, scholars, the United Nations and leading development practitioners. With the recent adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2013, the global community urgently requires solutions to advance, sustain and support artisanal miners and their families, but must also consider development perspectives beyond issues associated with mercury use. The expected outcome of the roundtable is to advance knowledge on artisanal mining through a high-level interdisciplinary platform seeking to address these complex global challenges, propose solutions through collaboration and enhance coordination between UBC and international scholars, donors, and UN agencies in the area of artisanal gold mining.