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Rethinking artisanal and large-scale mine relations in sub-Saharan Africa

Start date

December 2023

End date

December 2024


This ESRC IAA funded project will facilitate the coexistence of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) groups and large-scale mining companies in sub-Saharan Africa. It builds on an IAA rapid response activity that sought to stimulate innovation and support for ASM in the region.
ASM involves low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing, and is an important socio-economic sector for the rural poor in developing nations, many of whom have few other options for supporting their families. It is widely recognised as sub-Saharan Africa’s most important rural non-farm activity, providing direct employment to tens of millions of men and women, generating income to sustain family farms, bolstering food security at the local level, and funding children’s school fees.  
In recent decades, tensions between large-scale mine management and individuals engaged in ASM have escalated across sub-Saharan Africa, particularly over gold. The mining of gold has brought small and large-scale mining parties into conflict, and the team working on this project are looking to develop a model of autonomous co-existence by investigating developments, engaging stakeholders and identifying opportunities to demarcate equitably gold-mineralised lands to both.


Planned Impact



Donors, foremost the World Bank and United Nations (and partners), and industry bodies such as the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and World Gold Council have called on multinational companies to forge partnerships with the ASM groups operating on their concessions; they have even gone as far as to encourage mining companies to purchase gold extracted by ASM groups.
The aim of the planned impact work, therefore, is to change the narrative on ASM-large-scale mine relations in sub-Saharan Africa to allow autonomous coexistence to happen. The team will be shifting the focus of the debate to the much-overlooked exploration phase, and through a comprehensive program of stakeholder engagement, will stimulate change from within and develop a model that can be implemented in the region’s major gold-producers. This will be achieved by direct engagement with exploration companies, empowerment of ASM communities, and dialogue with donors and the private sector.