Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) is frequently inefficient in terms of its identification, exploitation, management, and processing of mineral resources. ASM is often carried out with little geological knowledge and prospection may be based on factors such as evidence of historical workings, chance discoveries of minerals, exploitation of abandoned industrial mines, rudimentary prospection, rumour and luck.

Mines are often opened with poor understanding, if any, of the nature and presentation of the ore body, its extent or value.

Exploitation techniques are often very basic with inappropriate tools and methods being employed by unskilled workers. Mineral recovery and processing techniques may be inefficient resulting in wastage, and inadequate site and waste management result in lost opportunities and doubling of effort as well as health and safety risks.

Mines may be high-graded to remove the most accessible and most valuable minerals, leaving the rest behind and wasting the mine’s overall potential. Mines may be abandoned as near-surface minerals are exhausted despite their having further, significant production potential.

Most artisanal miners learn their trade ‘on the job’ from their peers, some of whom may have some technical training but many of whom have also learned simply by experience, observation or informal skills transfer. This perpetuates bad practices as well as myths and standards which may be dangerous.

Many mines are in remote areas, far from potential technical training centres. Also, much formal training is given at a level which is too high and creates unrealistic standards for many miners. Technological solutions for mineral processing often fail to consider cost, maintenance, spare parts, fuel availability, replicability and replace-ability. Added to this, many miners find access to finance and equipment to be a serious operational challenge. Increased productivity is predicated upon making such practical inputs available.