Figures on artisanal miners are often lumped with small-scale operators. Yet, understanding what motivates such miners or stops them from becoming formal small-scale miners is a step towards addressing the adverse consequences of artisanal mining.
There are an estimated 9 million artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) operators and about 54 million dependants of the activity in Africa. ASM is the second largest employer after agriculture and employs 10 times more miners than the large-scale mining sector, producing 18% of Africa’s gold and almost all gemstones except diamonds. ASM has gained more prominence as a source of livelihood over time, with the number of miners quadrupling between 1999 and 2014. In Eritrea and the Central African Republic, for example, more than half the population is dependent on ASM. ASM affords higher income than agriculture, often provides employment in depressed agricultural areas, and slows down rural-urban migration.