The number of people involved in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) activities have been increasing globally. In Africa, specifically, the figures are estimated to be 9 million. This is an increase from an estimated 3 and 3.5 million in 1999. Presently, the Artisanal Small Scale Mining sector accounts for the largest mining workforce in Africa. Since Artisanal Small Scale Mining became part of the development agenda in the 1970s, many developing countries have acknowledged the sector’s importance in its role in local socio-economic development and have initiated a series of interventions aimed at formalizing the sector. In parallel, significant amount of research has been conducted to understand the sector and to address the negative externalities associated with the sector which for many decades have hindered the development of the sector in line with the respective national development agendas and on the African continent, the Yaoundé Vision on Artisanal Small Scale Mining and the African Mining Vision (AMV). To date, Artisinal Small Scale Mining remains a contentious issue characterized by misconceptions brought by the lack of clarity on the definition of Artisanal Small Scale Mining and issues surrounding its legitimacy as a source of livelihood.
While some countries have success stories to share in terms of the formalization of the Artisanal Small Scale Mining sector, South Africa has lagged behind developments in the rest of Africa with possible devastating consequences to its economy and people. Over the past few years, South Africa has seen an escalation of illegal Artisanal Small Scale Mining activities predominantly in the gold sector. This upsurge is driven by the limited economic opportunities in the country amid high unemployment rate and rising poverty levels. The loss of employment in the formal mining sector has also contributed to the scourge of illegal mining. Well over 300 lives have been lost in illegal mining activities between 2012 and 2016 and these are linked to rock falls, explosive accidents, gas poisoning, security and police battles and turf wars.
As a signatory to the AMV, it has become crucial for South Africa to diversify and create a mining sector that harnesses the potential of Artisanal Small Scale Mining to advance integrated and sustainable local socio-economic development. Accordingly, it is also important for mining practitioners to use their knowledge of mining to ensure that Artisanal Small Scale Mining operators work safely, effectively and efficiently to ensure the future viability of the South African mining industry, while leveraging opportunities for local socio-economic development.
This conference aims to provide a platform which brings together stakeholders working in the Artisanal Small Scale Mining sector to share experiences and learn from each other. Specifically, the conference seeks to expose South Africa to the successes and failures of Artisinal Small Scale Mining formalization efforts as seen in other developing countries particularly in the SADC region. In this context, this conference endeavour to explore policy and legislative changes that would optimize the current Artisanal Small Scale Mining legislative framework in South Africa in line with the aspirations of the AMV to deliver on the objectives of the National Development Plan. The conference aims to consider the implications of the future mining industry in South Africa where Artisanal Small Scale Mining is rejected on the one hand, and where Artisanal Small Scale Mining is encouraged and properly regulated on the other and used as a tool of poverty alleviation. With South Africa being amongst the largest mineral producing countries in the world, this conference will also explore the relationship between the large-scale mining (LSM) sector and Artisanal Small Scale Mining sector in the country with a view of bridging the gap between the two sectors for shared socioeconomic benefits.
This conference seeks to go beyond the sharing of knowledge and encompasses the transfer of skills and experiences as well. The objectives of the conference are to: