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

September 9, 2020
Artisanally-mined bricks for construction in Rwanda. Photo: James McQuilken/Pact.
  • 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 mitigate many of the sector’s negative impacts and amplify its positive impacts on the SDGs.
  • To realize this, ASM formalization needs to be planned in an inclusive and comprehensive manner with all 17 SDGs in mind, and prioritized as part of post-Covid-19 reconstruction and sustainable development efforts.
  • This is the first report assessing the relationships between ASM and all 17 SDGs, and providing concrete policy recommendations for harnessing ASM-SDG linkages.

As world leaders are scheduled to meet virtually for the UN General Assembly in a week’s time, Pact and the University of Delaware are publishing Mapping Artisanal and Small-scale Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals (in short: ASM-SDG Policy Assessment) today. This is a first-of-its-kind report assessing all positive and negative interlinkages between artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and each of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their respective targets. Beyond analysis, the Policy Assessment provides concrete policy guidance for harnessing ASM-SDG interlinkages and unlocking the sector’s full potential in contributing to the realization of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and related development frameworks. 

According to Antonio Pedro, Director with UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Subregional Office for Central Africa, this is an unprecedented contribution to the field of mining and sustainable development, as previous contributions focused almost exclusively on the large-scale mining sector. As he argues in a compelling foreword, the Policy Assessment represents “a seminal contribution to the body of knowledge on ASM and sustainable development, filling a gap in assessments of the role of the sector in the attainment of the SDGs.” 

Dr. Saleem H. Ali – Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment with the University of Delaware – and Dr. Caroline Anstey – President and Chief Executive Officer of Pact – further underscore the importance of mapping ASM to the SDGs. “ASM is not only a poverty-driven livelihood for millions of people worldwide, but also a vibrant, dynamic and emerging economy,” they write in an introductory letter. Yet, “its linkage to development imperatives is systematically understated in global metrics.”

The Assessment was authored by Jorden de Haan and Dr. James McQuilken – both development practitioners and ASM experts at Pact – and Kirsten Dales, an independent industrial ecologist specialized in ASM. The Assessment was developed in close collaboration with Dr. Saleem H. Ali and has been reviewed by other prominent industry leaders.

Drawing from the global literature, the authors’ field experiences and further inputs from 11 experts of Pact’s Mines to Markets program, a comprehensive ‘ASM-SDG Matrix’ was first developed, which forms the informational backbone of the Assessment. The matrix maps all of the positive and negative impacts the sector currently has on the 17 SDGs and their 169 targets, as well and the impacts the sector has (or could have) when formalized. Based on this analysis, both current and potential ASM-SDG interlinkages are assessed in seven SDG clusters. 

The Policy Assessment reveals a multitude of interlinkages. Clear positive and negative impacts are established, ranging from the sector’s critical capacity of providing direct livelihoods and alleviating poverty for more than 42 million women, men, girls and boys (positively impacting SDG 1 ‘No Poverty’, SDG 5 ‘Gender Equality’ and SDG 8 ‘Economic Growth and Decent Work’), to the sector’s negative impacts on clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) as well as life on land and life under water (SDGs 14 and 15). However, in most cases, the interlinkages are multi-faceted and complex. This is exemplified in SDG 13 (‘Climate Action’), which is both positively impacted through the sector’s production of minerals and metals such as cobalt and copper, both required for the transition to renewable, low-carbon sustainable energy systems, and negatively impacted through mining-induced land degradation and biodiversity loss, which threaten the adaptive capacity of ecosystems and people to climate change.

The authors observe that although contributions are impressive, the primarily informal sector currently realizes only a fraction of its full potential. However, if approached in an inclusive and comprehensive manner, formalization can help realize much more by mitigating the sector’s negative impacts and amplifying its positive impacts on the SDGs. To this end, the authors discuss a set of steps and options that countries can take for developing and implementing SDG-sensitive, human rights-based ASM formalizing strategies, and for integrating ASM and the SDGs in national and regional policy frameworks. Application of this guidance is illustrated with a case study from Sierra Leone, developed in collaboration with Peter Kapr Bangura, Sierra Leone’s Director of Mines, and Mohamed Abdulai Kamara, Senior Environment Officer with the country’s Environment Protection Agency. 

The ASM-SDG Policy Assessment concludes with a call for global support for SDG-sensitive ASM formalization, outlining suggested responsibilities of multi-lateral and bilateral institutions, civil society and the private sector. Together, we can recalibrate strategies and ‘build back better’ by blazing a new path toward Agenda 2030, while ensuring that no woman, man, girl, boy, mineral or SDG is ‘left behind’.

A launch event is planned for mid-October in collaboration with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with more information to follow soon.

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To read the full report and for information on the ASM-SDG Policy Assessment, visit and

About Pact – A nonprofit international development organization founded in 1971, Pact works on the ground in 40 countries to improve the lives of those who are challenged by poverty and marginalization. We serve these communities because we envision a world where everyone owns their future. Pact’s Mines to Markets program uses an integrated, market-based approach and brings together government, industry and miners themselves to make ASM formal, safer and more productive. Visit us at

About the University of Delaware - The University of Delaware’s Minerals, Materials and Society’s education, research and training program is among the first of its kind in the United States that takes an interdisciplinary approach to linking science and policy with environmental and socio-economic issues around extractive supply chains for all consumer industries of minerals, extractives and related materials. Learn more at


Molly Derrick, Director, Integrated Communications, Pact, @email

Jorden de Haan, Program Officer, Mines to Markets, Pact, @email

Dr. Saleem H. Ali, Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment, Department of Geography, University of Delaware, @email