Supporting Africa’s mining sector

Supporting Africa’s mining sector

Writer: Karin Gellatly
Photography: GRM International

Australia Awards is working with Awardees to regulate the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining sector across Africa

Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) has long been an important industry in Africa, providing economic opportunities for many impoverished families. The average earnings of an ASM worker are less than one dollar a day, placing them in absolute poverty. A United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) report estimated that, throughout Africa, over 8 million people are directly engaged in ASM, and that they in turn support more than 45 million dependants. This highly unregulated sector is now emerging as a challenge that governments can no longer ignore.

An unregulated environment in ASM results in environmental degradation of local communities, water pollution, land tenure issues and poor safety and labour standards. Critically, it lacks monitoring and control through mining licences and tax regulations.

The Australian Government supports developing nations to explore and maximise the benefit from extractive industries to drive economic growth and contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Australia Awards supports governments and individuals to develop regulatory, management and governance structures within the mining sector.

Miora Razafindrakoto from Madagascar, who attended the Corporate Community Relationships Fellowship course hosted by UniQuest in 2012, explains: “Studying in Australia gave me skills that have allowed me to create a climate of trust between all stakeholders in the mining area. This has resulted in a cooperative being formed that now regulates the gold operation in the region”. The cooperative established between local authorities and ASM workers has resulted in increased income, improved working conditions and empowerment of ASM workers.

Establishing a governance framework is imperative for a stable, regulated mining environment. Enatfenta Melaku Gebre, who participated in the 2012 Occupational Health and Safety mining course with UniQuest, has developed a set of guidelines on Environmental and Social Impact Assessments that are used by the Ministry of Mines in Ethiopia. “These guidelines are crucial to the
Ethiopian mining sector. The guidelines ensure that we can hold accountable the mining companies and protect the environment, the local communities and mine workers”.

Tackling the environmental issues of ASMs, Désiré Alphonse Rakotondravaly from Madagascar has established a Geospatial Information System (GIS), whereby information is collected and disseminated to relevant authorities on potential location of small scale gold mines. This information allows the Ministry of Mines to manage the location and prevent ‘gold rushes’ by providing a semiregulated environment that supports ASM workers and prevents the environmental degradation, land tenure and environmental issues normally associated with gold rushes.

As Désiré, who completed a specialist GIS Africa Fellowship in 2012 reflects, “the skills and knowledge I gained while on an Australia Award have allowed me to approach my work in a more strategic and reasoned manner. I am now able to use GIS and remote sensing to actively manage the small scale gold mining sector within my country”.

Although around 40 African countries have reformed their mining legislation in the last two decades and, in many cases, have incorporated small-scale mining into the legislative framework, more than 80 per cent of small-scale miners still operate outside a legal framework.

The Australian Government works in partnership with African countries to build leadership, knowledge and technical skills in the mining sector; Australia has provided support to mining governance and policy development through over 265 Africa Fellowships since 2011. This has contributed to improved mining policy and regulatory environments and governance that have the potential to lead to critical outcomes in economic development and poverty reduction.