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Small-scale mining and its socio-economic impact in developing countries

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This article examines both the positive and negative socio-economic impacts of small-scale mining in developing countries, and outlines some key measures for improving sustainability in the sector. It is important to clarify that, in spite of experiencing its share of environmental- and health-related problems that adversely impact human quality-of-life, small-scale mining plays a pivotal role in alleviating poverty in the developing world, and contributes significantly to national revenues and foreign exchange earnings. Though these important socio-economic contributions make small-scale mining an indispensable economic activity, there is an obvious need for improved sustainability in the industry, more specifically, for operations to resolve pressing problems, many of which have wide-ranging impacts. However, because most small-scale mines are low-tech and employ poorly trained uneducated people, it is difficult for the sector to improve on its own. Thus, governments and regional international bodies must play an expanded role in bridging critical information, techno-logic and economic gaps. It is concluded that governments and regional organizations could accomplish much in the way of improved sustainability in the small-scale mining industry by: (1) legalizing small-scale mining and implementing sector-specific legislation; (2) contributing to community development and providing increased economic support; and (3) providing training and educational assistance, and playing an expanded role in the dissemination and transfer of important technologies.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Environmental Policy & Management Group (EPMG), Imperial College Centre for Environmental Technology (ICCET), Royal School of Mines, London

Publication date: 2002-02-01

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