As Covid-19 underscores the vulnerability of artisanal miners, Pact and partners gather data for solutions

June 26, 2020
An artisanal miner works in Zimbabwe. (Photo: Maggie Dougherty/Pact)

There is no question that Covid-19 is taking a significant economic toll across the developing world. The pandemic is now expected to push 71 million additional people into extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.90 a day), according to the World Bank’s most recent projections.

We also know that economic crises such as this one affect vulnerable populations and those working in the informal sector the most. This includes workers who rely on daily wages to cover their basic needs and have little to no savings to fall back on during disruptions.

This is exactly where many artisanal and small-scale miners fall. Artisanal and small-scale mining, or ASM, provides a vital livelihood for about 42 million people around the world, with tens of millions more people also dependent on the sector, including family members and small business owners along the ASM supply chain. ASM involves using basic tools to extract from the earth critical metals vital to the world’s economies, such as tin, tungsten, tantalum, gold and cobalt. It is among the most manually intensive labor that humans undertake, and it is an important driver of development in communities from Africa to Asia where there are often few other opportunities available for generating income.

This is why Pact brings together government, industry and miners themselves to make ASM formal, safer and more productive, and it is why we are paying special attention to the impact of Covid-19 on ASM. Stakeholders across the sector have documented significant disruptions to ASM operations as governments have imposed restrictions on work, travel and export, and as global mineral supply chains have been upended. Understanding the full scope of the problem is the first step toward assessing needs and formulating effective responses.

Gathering stakeholders and data

In 2019, the World Bank and Pact launched Delve, a global online data platform funded by the World Bank that is dedicated to better understanding and meeting the needs of the ASM sector. As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic began, Delve responded with a special effort to bring stakeholders together to generate new data and insights on how ASM communities are being affected.

As a neutral convening space for the sector, Delve established a Covid-19 page for gathering unique information and for cataloguing content and analyses from other institutions, agencies and the media. An initial call drew interest from more than 60 stakeholders, leading Delve to establish a biweekly working group. Meeting since April, the group shares information, ideas and resources on Covid-19 and ASM, and now includes members from government, NGOs, multilateral institutions, the private sector and academia.

Building responses from the ground up

Among the tangible responses that have emerged from the working group is a survey that is now underway to gather first-hand information on the pandemic’s impacts directly from mining communities. With additional funding from the World Bank, Delve is working with more than a dozen partner organizations to deploy the survey across 22 countries over a two month period, with more than 400 purposefully selected participants to provide a qualitative snapshot of conditions on the ground. Through phone interviews, mainly with mine-site level stakeholders such as miners and service providers, the survey will rapidly assess how Covid-related restrictions are impacting the economic and social lives of miners and their families. Topics covered include perceptions of risk of Covid exposure, knowledge and prevention measures at ASM sites, food insecurity, impacts on miners’ operations and more.

Results are just beginning to be published through Delve, with new website dashboards that will be updated biweekly that allow users to filter data by geography and respondent gender. To date, the data is limited, but already we are uncovering valuable information. Public health messaging about what Covid-19 is and what precautionary measures to take is reaching more than 90 percent of the 365 miners surveyed, with radio being the most common communication channel reaching miners. As expected, government restrictions on work are the most common disrupter to mining operations. The pandemic is causing collateral impacts on food security. A majority of miners (71 percent) are experiencing a decrease in the availability of food to eat, with a third reporting that at least one member of their household has had to skip a meal in the week the first surveys were undertaken. Food price inflation, loss of employment and reduction in household income are the three primary factors contributing to the reduction in available food to eat among respondents.  

Food price inflation, loss of employment and reduction in household income are top reported causes for reduced food availability in mining communities, according to survey results. See interactive dashboards at

Our goal is that the information made available through Delve will help Pact and others to develop effective medium and long-term responses to Covid-19 and build resilience in the ASM sector for future crises. The data is already being shared among the World Bank donor community to inform potential funding responses. Further analysis from data collection partners is expected to be released in the coming weeks to provide more contextual insights and guidance for the sector’s recovery.

Together our global future faces a long and challenging pathway to recovery, especially for those in the informal sector. But by listening, gathering data and bringing stakeholders together to support them with effective solutions, we can build more inclusive and resilient systems to support artisanal and small-scale mining communities.

Learn more about Delve at

Find Delve’s Covid-19 information here.

Individuals and organizations interested in joining Delve’s ASM Covid-19 working group can sign up here.