Artisanal mining

Artisanal mining must become sustainable

Artisanal mining (of gold and diamonds) is an important source of income for many communities in the Congo Basin.

However, artisanal mining activities also destroy and degrade forests through habitat destruction, the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury, pollution of waterways, etc.

Destructive practices

The livelihood practices supporting artisanal mining populations include additional destructive activities such as gathering firewood and timber for construction, hunting for bushmeat, combining the trade of minerals with ivory and wildlife trade.

Artisanal mining is also a growing driver for internal migration and colonization of frontier forest lands, leading to land clearance and settlements in areas that would probably remain untouched otherwise.

It breeds a number of social ills and environmental health issues that are impoverishing resident communities.

Particular concern

The impacts of artisanal mining on both the environment and livelihoods are of particular concern in several important landscapes of the Green Heart of Africa.
For example, the Minkebe National Park in Gabon is an important protected area that has suffered gold rushes and population booms in the last decade.

Pilot study

WWF is about to start a pilot study in Minkebe, working with the communities to minimize the impact of artisanal mining on high biodiversity sites. The project will also look at the potential implementation of environmentally-sound mining practices in areas alongside protected areas. Such practices include chemical free mining, as well as anti-poaching and anti-logging measures.

Gaining knowledge

Through this and other case studies, WWF wants to develop strategies promoting sustainable artisanal mining in and around protected areas. WWF also hopes to gain invaluable knowledge on how to manage this emerging development challenge in all Africa.

 / ©: Michel Gunther / WWF
Artisanal mining, Gabon.
© Michel Gunther / WWF

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