Artisanal Small-Scale Mining (ASM) & how does it relate to Large-Scale Mining (LSM)?

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Artisanal Small-Scale Mining vs. Large-Scale Formal Mining

ASM activities often take place near or within the formal mining concessions of large-scale mining (LSM) operations. ASM may take place in abandoned mining areas, in tailing dams, low volume deposits, or in downstream areas. Interactions between LSM and ASM are increasing as both sectors expand; relations can range from violent confrontation to cooperative support with the later being the most common.

Risks to Large-Scale Mining Companies

The presence of ASM can create a number of risks for LSM. First, when ASM takes place on formal concessions, it can create health and safety risks for LSM miners. Increased security may also be necessary to protect LSM workers and mining equipment, and conflicts between LSM and ASM workers can result in work stoppages. Conflict between large-scale mines and artisanal miners has created controversy and significant tension in some areas, such as Tanzania, leading to high-profile conflicts and negative perceptions of international mining.

Risks to LSM Public Image

A poor public relationship can easily lead to a damaging international reputation of LSM operations and threaten community support for the large commercial mines. ASM is often poorly managed and when left unchecked, can be much more environmentally damaging than LSM, and can leave a legacy of water and land pollution, river damage, and abandoned pits and shafts. ASM activities may also be tied to illegal activities, child labor, and human rights abuses that are not related to LSM but are nonetheless picked up by the media and pressure groups and used to damage the reputation of LSM companies.

Often in the initial stages of an LSM setup, an overestimated anticipation of CSR activities, potentially due to an over-promise, the communities overestimated perceptions of the mines profitability, and the mines perceived positive affect on the local community leads to a longer term resentment in the community which can easily lead to conflict. This is most common with foreign mining companies lacking the capacity of clear and transparent communication with the communities that are hosting them. The response of LSM operations to ASM varies depending on the situation and nature of interaction, but increasingly consultation and discussion helps manage and minimize risk. Such engagement can also bring benefits for the LSM operations beyond risk mitigation. ASM may help in exploration activities, and their inclusion in post-mine closure plans can help ensure that a positive mining legacy remains. ASM engagement may also be part of the Corporate Social Responsibility strategies of mining operations, and contribute to a sustainable and positive post-mining legacy.

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