Tuesday, March 22, 2016

International Water Day

This year's UN World Water Day focuses attention on the close relationship between water and jobs.  This is particularly true for the  Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector where, for more than 15 million workers,  water plays an integral part in processing operations, but also has important linkages to environmental and human health.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Artisanal mining and the SDGs

The September fanfare of agreeing to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is over. It’s 2016, and the clock has started ticking. A starting point to realising the SDGs requires an understanding of where and how our work intersects with them. The mining sector - large, medium, small and artisanal – is no exception. How the artisanal sector in particular unfolds and develops in the next 15 years will affect our collective ability to reach the SDGs.  While developments in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) can be linked to all of the SDGs, 8 of the most pertinent ones are discussed below, reflecting on what this means for the sector and for the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Zero Mercury Working Group Press Release


Press release

Despite progress, global mercury agreement undermined by uncontrolled production and trade

Groups ask governments to fast track ratification, early implementation of Minamata Treaty

Amman, Jordan, 9 March 2016—Commitments toward stronger global mercury controls are being hampered by illegal, unreported and unregulated mercury production and trade, an international NGO coalition revealed today on the eve of a UN mercury treaty meeting in Jordan.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), of which the AGC is a member, said that global efforts to reduce emissions of mercury may be derailed if gaps in mercury production and trade controls are not addressed before the treaty enters into force.

“Trafficking in mercury is not like selling potato chips,” said Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator. “There are well known consequences when mercury gets haphazardly produced, traded and subsequently released into the biosphere.”

Mercury is a potent persistent neurotoxin that bioaccumulates, posing the greatest risks to developing children, coastal populations and millions of small-scale gold miners using mercury around the globe.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, agreed in 2013, signed by 128 countries and ratified by 23 nations thus far, is a treaty that protects human health and environment from mercury pollution. The treaty bans new mercury mines, places control measures on air emissions, imposes regulations on artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and enforces the phase out of existing mines and products.

The meeting in Jordan this week is the seventh session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) on mercury. Delegates are meeting to agree on the finer details of the agreement. This is the last meeting before the Convention enters into force, once 50 countries ratify it.

“Countries need to stay true to the spirit and intent of this historic agreement,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZMWG International Coordinator. “In order to stop the flow we need to first know where mercury supply comes from and where it goes.”

Significant gaps in information on mercury production and trade flows prevent a clear understanding of the global supply situation. There is currently no standard information or listing on mercury production, supply and trade. Some mercury producing countries do not report production levels and many countries have no accurate listing of their mercury stocks due to the proliferation of illegal or smuggled supplies.

“It is worrying that new and soon to be illegal primary mercury mines are now popping up in Indonesia and Mexico, and that East Asia is emerging as a major mercury trading hub,” said Richard Gutierrez, from the Artisanal Gold Council in Canada. “All this feeds substantial mercury demand in small-scale gold mining. At the Artisanal Gold Council we have developed a methodology that can be used by governments and other organisations to determine just how much mercury is being used on the ground.”

The ZMWG believes that to effectively control and manage mercury trade, countries need to start identifying and quantifying their mercury production sources.  Governments need to be transparent about their production volumes and stockpiles and about who is exporting and how much to which countries.

“Preventing opportunistic mercury production and trade through an efficient reporting and monitoring structure will help to prevent it from continuing. This should be a top priority when governments gather tomorrow,” said Rico Euripidou of groundWork South Africa.  “Data reporting should become an integral part of the treaty. Otherwise the treaty may end up being just another paper tiger.”

For more information, please contact:

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZMWG International Coordinator, Mobile: +32 496 532818, Elena.lymberidi@eeb.org
Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, M:+1 802 9174579, mercurypolicy@aol.com
Richard Gutierrez, Project Manager - Indonesia, Artisanal Gold Council, M: +63 2 355 7640, rgutierrez@artisanalgold.org
Rico Euripidou, groundWork - Friends of the Earth South Africa , M: +27 835193008, rico@groundwork.org.za

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

In celebration of women artisanal gold miners

Women’s contribution and priorities in artisanal and small scale gold mining are often overlooked. This is in part due to the informal nature of the sector, existing inequitable gender norms and in part because mining continues to be understood in many places as a sector of the economy requiring stereotypical male characteristics. Yet women form an important part of the work force in the sector, playing a wide variety of roles. As in many sectors, women earn less for their work when compared with men.
Gender training in Peru

The artisanal gold mining sector offers the opportunity to narrow existing gender gaps, but also runs the risk of widening them, if this is not a priority. Globally, the world economic forum estimates that it will take 117 years to achieve gender parity.  AGC is committed to accelerating the closing of the gender gap in ASGM. Gender equity is not a by-product of our work, but rather an explicit target. Women and men are both integral for the development of a responsible artisanal gold sector that contributes to the sustainable development of their communities.

When women’s strategic interests or practical needs are identified and addressed, ASGM can be a vehicle to improved socio-economic status, increased decision-making power in communities and increased economic independence for women. It can also enable women to take measures to protect their and their families’ health.  As the backbones to communities around the world, these improvements will be reflected in broader social development through investments that women in turn are able to make in their family’s education and health.

Today is March 8th, International Women’s Day and we’d like to celebrate the contribution of women in artisanal and small scale gold mining, by taking a look at a new project that we are launching in Peru. AGC is excited to be partnering with Red Social, a Peruvian Non-Governmental Organization with a long history of working with women and men artisanal miners. They have done extensive documentation of women in artisanal mining in Peru. This is a significant contribution. Already there is insufficient information about the informal sector, and within the sector women’s roles and needs are invisible to decision makers if they aren’t highlighted. You can see some of their recent work here.

Over the next four years in the context of a Global Affairs Canada funded partnership Red Social and the Artisanal Gold Council will improve the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector in the regions of Arequipa, Ayacucho and Apurimac by working directly with miners, the Peruvian government, and the wide group of stakeholders involved in the communities surrounding artisanal mining and the gold sector at large. Gender is mainstreamed throughout the project. Specifically, the project will:

Raise awareness about gender equality with miners and mining communities through a series of facilitated workshops.  These sessions will have the dual purpose of generating awareness and community level action as well as to document current roles, obstacles, priorities and opportunities for women in the sector.

Build and strengthen women’s organisations, supporting them in organisation, communication, leadership and business operations. Support will be tailored to organisational needs, and provided using an accompaniment model. The project will also provide physical spaces for women’s groups to use. One will be located adjacent to the processing plant can serve multiple purposes including serving as a warehouse for women to store their ore, a meeting place, and other functions. The second will be located in the community will serve primarily as the office of the women’s association but also as a multifunctional area for child care and other needs. The support to women’s organisations will elevate their status within their communities.

 Involve women in the operation of mercury free processing plants. Healthier, more environmentally-friendly and economically more productive ore processing systems will be built in this project. Women will be incorporated and trained in roles relating to the operation of plants. This may include monitoring the carpets or working as an administrator for instance. Each processing plant will also guarantee women’s ability to process ore at the plant.

Engender policies and development plans, by working with decision-makers. Mining and environmental policy often passes as gender “neutral”. In reality these policies also need to specifically consider the differential impact on men and women in order to contribute to long term goals of sustainable development. Bringing concrete lived experiences from women in ASGM in Peru to decision makers will help engender planning documents and policies.

At the national level, there is an articulation of a desire to transform the artisanal gold sector in Peru. Women are key players for this evolution to be successful. Today we celebrate the contributions that women throughout Peru are already making in the sector.

We’ll be sharing more about our work in Peru in the coming months and years, as the project progresses. Stay tuned.