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Part B: Mineral Rights - Part B-4: ASM Licencing | 28. Artisanal Mining

Considerations that can help to determine whether an activity is Small Scale Mining (SSM) or Artisanal Mining (AM) include: types of deposits, depth of excavation, use of explosives, use of chemicals, participants, number of employees, level of investment. In some countries, AM is consolidated with SSM and generally referred to as Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) within the mining law. In other countries, such activities and the respective related licences or authorizations are treated separately. Yet in others, the mining law addresses one and not the other while in still others, a set of activities can be solely titled small scale mining and nevertheless include artisanal activities.

In this Section, AM is treated as an activity distinct from SSM; with AM defined as mineral extraction and rudimentary processing that is:

    (a) continuous or seasonal,

    (b) carried out by individuals or groups of individuals,

    (c) conducted using primarily or exclusively manual labour and manual tools,

    (d) carried out at a single site or multiple sites, and

    (e) focused on producing mineral products that are primarily delivered or sold to

    (i) traders in those mineral products,

    (ii) local artists and craftsmen, or

    (iii) builders acting within the national economy.

The primary rationale for regulating AM is to formalize the sector. AM activities are usually already in existence and there is interest in ensuring that these activities are carried out according to state and national policies addressing poverty alleviation. Other goals in regulating AM include: to curb abuses such as forced labour, child labour, and vices related to gender discrimination; to eliminate or diminish unsafe or unhealthy practices by artisanal miners; to ameliorate AM practices with respect to safety, security and environmental protection and social relations with local communities; to eliminate or minimize clandestine trade in a nation’s non-renewable mineral resources; and to improve the collection of tax revenue from the subsector.

There are multiple considerations that determine the choices that states make in the naming of the licence or authorization to be issued for artisanal mining. In most cases, it is not considered to be a mineral right; and it therefore does not have the same rights or obligations as the licenses that are mineral rights. It is recommended that in all cases, the title of the licence or authorization be consistent with the activities that it authorizes.

Legal engagement in AM can be based on:

    1) authorizations (restricted to nationals) which allow the automatic right to conduct the activity, subject to complying with obligations for the proper conduct of the activity (e.g., Madagascar (2005) – gold digging authorization; DRC (2002) – artisanal miner card), OR

    2) use of a permit system which allows for identification without an onerous licence application process before the conduct of AM activities (e.g., Zambia (2005) – artisan’s mining right), OR

    (3) applications for licenses, which requires steps that are more extensive than the acquisition of an identifying permit, also before engaging in the AM activity (e.g., Burkina Faso (2015), Côte d’Ivoire (2014) – artisanal exploitation authorization; Sierra Leone (2009) – artisanal mining licence).