Improving the occupational situation for African small-scale mining

Published 23-05-2017

A new training programme is to improve the living conditions and the profits for the many Africans whose livelihood is based on digging out minerals.

Millions of people in the developing countries make a living by a special from of low-technology artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). In Africa alone, approximately 10 million people are directly involved in the mining and to even more the ASM is an indirect livelihood. And the number of small-scale miners is steadily increasing in Africa.

Lack of knowledge of geology, economy and the environment

The minerals are often dug out under poor safety conditions in cramped and deeps shafts, and when the miners extract for instance the gold, they often use mercury, which causes substantial environmental and health problems, if not handled properly. The miners do not have the necessary geological training to know where it is best to dig, and how to organise the digging to get the best yield. And when they get a hit, the miners do not always get the best profit from their efforts due to lack of business experience and knowledge of and access to the markets where they can sells their products.

Picture of low-technology artisanal and small-scale mining

Millions of people in the developing countries make a living by a special from of low-technology artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). A new training programme led by GEUS is to improve the miners living conditions and profits.

Danish-led project to improve the occupational situation for the ASM

The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) is leading a new EU-financed project to improve the profits and the working conditions in the ASM in several African countries. The work includes training of the miners and staff in the relevant authorities to improve the working methods and the possibilities for profits to create a more sustainable industry as regards economy, health and the environment.

So far, cooperation with seven African countries has been established: Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Besides the training programme, the project will also prepare an easy-to-read, well-illustrated handbook on small-scale mining giving the miners advice on how to increase their profits and improve their living conditions. The topics of the handbook include geological know-how helping the miners to dig in the right places and in the right way, descriptions of how to better secure the mining shafts and how to handle chemicals. Other topics are information about business operations and knowledge about their markets.

"The number of ASM miners is increasing steadily in Africa, since in many areas, it is the only possibility for an income and an alternative to unemployment or emigration", says John Tychsen, director of development projects at GEUS, who is in charge of the ASM project.

"The miners need training, so they can get better working conditions and increase their possibilities for profits. Many of them have worked really hard to dig out the minerals, but in the end they are cheated out of a reasonable profit, because they don't know what the true value of their products is", he concludes.

The ASM project is part of the large cooperation project PanAfGeo, in which geologists from 12 European geological surveys will train colleagues from the 54 geological surveys in the African countries in several geoscientific topics. In the ASM project, GEUS will be assisted by African experts. PanAfGeo is supported financially by the EU and is part of the European aid programme for the African Union. The ASM project is also supported by means from Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) financed by Global Affairs Canada.


John Tychsen
Director of development projects
Henrik Højmark Thomsen
Communication officer
Press and Communication