Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) is a hugely important livelihood for tens of thousands of people in the Great Lakes Region (GLR) who produce minerals by hand, using rudimentary tools, in remote sites. However, the potential for ASM to deliver long term value to the miners and surrounding communities is currently unfulfilled.
Minerals deliver immediate value to miners when traded, however, all too frequently, the income from the transaction is used for short term needs rather than longer term development. Few miners know how to work efficiently to maximize mineral recovery, and few know the value of the minerals they produce in terms of grade and relative pricing.
Furthermore, literacy and formal education levels are often low in ASM communities due to the migratory nature of the work, the remote location of the mines, and the frequency of child labor in ASM at the expense of school attendance.
In the DRC, for example, over 30,000 artisanal miners produce minerals containing tin tantalum tungsten ore which enter into the iTSCi system. The majority of these miners, both men and women, have low levels of literacy and no opportunity to engage in adult learning.
Many miners are in debt to informal creditors and sponsors who ‘pre-finance’ their work, often with resulting trade commitments and high levels of interest. Miners regularly cite lack of access to formal credit and financial services as being major obstacles to improving the efficiency of their activities. Yet few miners have the necessary credentials to make them attractive clients for financial services as they often lack security of tenure for their mine site, they may have no fixed address due to the migratory nature of their work, and financial services may simply not extend to remote mining areas.
This is a situation which can be improved by self-generation of capital through savings, management of debt, and financial acumen.