Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) mining involves the manual extraction of minerals using rudimentary tools and techniques. It is often carried out on an informal basis with little geological knowledge and scant attention paid to mine management or health and safety. ASM mines often present a wide range of physical hazards to workers which compromise their safety and wellbeing.
ASM mines present myriad risks including:

  • Badly constructed pits, shafts and tunnels prone to collapse and landslides, flooding and lack of ventilation;
  • Poor management of waste material leading to physical problems with waste dump, water contamination and health hazards including proliferation of disease(such as malaria) due to stagnant water sources;
  • Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or poor understanding of how to use it;
  • Health impacts of exposure to dust, noise, underground work and heavy, repetitive, physical labour;
  • Lack of potable water, latrines and sanitation leading to gastrointestinal disease;
  • Physical risk of using inappropriate or poorly maintained equipment; and
  • Use of hazardous materials.

The health impacts of artisanal mining are not limited to the miners and the mines. Diversion and siltation of water sources affects all surrounding and downstream communities too.

Also, due to the often migratory nature of artisanal mining, miners and mineral transporters can spread illness and disease, particularly if they engage in promiscuous sexual behaviour.

Child and youth labour is prevalent in many mines and these young people are particularly prone to physical and psychosocial damage.