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Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining


Karen Hayes

vice president, environment, energy & extractives

Cristina Villegas

director, mines to markets


artisanal miners whose lives we improved last year

Artisanal and small-scale mining, or ASM, is a largely informal economic sector that includes workers around the world who use basic tools to extract from the earth everything from gold and gemstones to vital metals such as cobalt, tin, tungsten and tantalum.

ASM is important for several reasons. These metals are critical to the world’s economies – necessary for computers, mobile phones, airplanes, medical devices, rechargeable batteries and much more. A significant portion of these metals are produced through ASM. As long as the world demands these products, artisanal miners will continue to dig for the minerals they require, often under dangerous, exploitative conditions that include child labor and other human rights abuses.

But turning our backs on artisanal miners is not the answer. ASM provides a vital livelihood for an estimated 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. Artisanal mining is an important driver of development in communities from Africa to Asia, where there are often few other opportunities available for generating income. We know that ASM contributes positively to many of the Sustainable Development Goals, and with inclusive, comprehensive formalization, the global community can mitigate ASM’s negative impacts.

What We Do

Pact’s Mines to Markets program – part of our global environment, energy and extractives portfolio – has been working to improve the ASM sector and the lives of artisanal miners for more than a decade.

Currently operating in Africa, Asia and South America, Pact’s ASM technical experts work in partnership with governments, industry and artisanal miners themselves to make ASM formal, safer and more productive and equitable. Pact’s efforts are helping to reveal and make the most of ASM’s contributions to development.

A global footprint: Pact's Mines to Markets program is improving the lives of artisanal miners across the world.A global footprint: Pact's Mines to Markets program is improving the lives of artisanal miners across the world.

We specialize in health and safety in mining, human rights, traceability and transparency, economic empowerment among miners, mercury abatement, child labor reduction, mineral certification and ethical sourcing. Our programs help communities gain lasting benefit from mineral resources by using them more sustainably. About one-third of the people we serve are women, which is consistent with their representation in the global mining sector.

Our Impact

In Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, Pact’s programming has markedly reduced child labor at mine sites where we work. In Tanzania, we are helping women miners earn fair prices for artisanally mined gemstones. In Zimbabwe and Myanmar, we are reducing the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining. We also improve governance in the countries where we work, strengthening local, regional and national institutions.

In central Africa, Pact implements ITSCI, a traceability due diligence program for the responsible sourcing of tin, tungsten and tantalum. ITSCI is the only industry initiative with standards independently confirmed to be 100 percent aligned with OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains. ITSCI is lauded by independent researchers and institutions for its self-financed approach that has hastened formalization.

Learn more, including how various stakeholders can partner with us, under the FAQ tab above.


Stories and Highlights

An artisanal miner at work in DRC. (Credit: Pact)

Pact, AOC and Philips Monitors partner to improve responsible sourcing of minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo

December 16, 2020
International nonprofit organization Pact, AOC International (Europe) B.V. and MMD-Monitors & Displays Nederland B.V. (Philips Monitors), leaders in the global monitor market, announce a new...
Woman sluicing gold-bearing ore on Gori Maria mine site in Mikei, Migori, Kenya. (Credit: Jorden de Haan/Pact)

Reversing ‘conflict minerals’: Let’s formalize artisanal mining for peaceful, just and inclusive societies

December 7, 2020
This is a cross-post of a Guest Article published on the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is a largely informal industry, known for its close relations with armed...
Karen Hayes selected 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining 2020

Pact’s Karen Hayes celebrated in 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining publication

November 19, 2020
Pact’s Karen Hayes, Vice President of Energy, Environment and Extractives, has recently been selected as one of 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining by Women in Mining U.K. The biennial global...
Sewing apprentices take part in a Pact program that is reducing child labor in mining in DRC by helping older children find alternative means of income. (Photo: Pact)

Combating modern slavery in artisanal cobalt mining is vital to achieving the Paris Agreement targets

October 19, 2020
Coinciding with Anti-Slavery Day on October 18, last week the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) released its review of UK aid spending to tackle modern slavery in developing countries...
Artisanal miners at work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo: Pact)

Communities affected by Covid-19 receive support from expanded Pact, Trafigura, Chemaf program in DRC

October 12, 2020
The lives and livelihoods of artisanal and small-scale miners were precarious even before the Covid-19 pandemic. About 42 million people around the world work in artisanal and small-scale mining, or...
Women panning gold in Sierra Leone.

Harnessing artisanal and small-scale mining to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals

September 14, 2020
It makes intuitive sense that artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labor-intensive mineral processing and extraction – cuts across the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
Artisanally mined bricks for construction in Rwanda

Neglected artisanal miners are proven critical for the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

September 9, 2020
Even in its informal state, ASM makes positive contributions to almost all of the SDGs, but also has negative impacts on most of them.  Depending on the way it is approached, formalization can help...

ITSCI: A decade of success

September 1, 2020
Pact is proud to be the lead on-the-ground implementer of the ITSCI system. This article was originally published in the July 2020 issue of the Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center Bulletin,...
An artisanal miner works in Zimbabwe. (Photo: Maggie Dougherty/Pact)

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

June 26, 2020
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...
Men and women hard at work at a mine site in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pact joins call for immediate action for artisanal mining communities during Covid-19 crisis

May 15, 2020
This week, Pact joined more than 70 civil society organizations and community-based associations in calling for immediate and concerted action from governments, financing institutions, international...