ASM Formalisation: Mongolia’s five ingredients for success

Press releases, 08.05.2019

An estimated 40 million people are engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) around the world. We know that poverty is the most significant driver for this industry, and the dream of discovering a valuable deposit is hard to resist. In all countries, ASM remains predominantly informal; miners occupy the margins, and are a stigmatised sub-section of society living an economically and socially precarious existence. Governments and downstream companies are increasingly recognising that ASM, as the livelihood of many, could and should be considered a significant contributor to global development and granted a legitimate role in global supply chains. Formalising, legalising and regulating the sector has the potential to further many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from advancing gender equality to increasing the contribution of ASM to the local and national economy.

Representatives from Mongolia
Representatives from Mongolia ©SDC Mongolia

Few countries have made such significant strides in this direction as Mongolia. In 15 years, with the support of the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development, the country transformed a chaotic, illegal, and stigmatised ASM sector to a formalising, regulated, and more respectedone, pioneering environmental management and hosting two Fairmined gold supply chains.

During April 23-26, the 13th Forum on Responsible Minerals Supply Chain was organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France. The Forum provides the opportunity to review and discuss the implementation of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Minerals and other initiatives to enable responsible mineral supply chains and is one of the biggest international ASM-related events.

During the forum, on April 25, SDC’s Sustainable Artisanal Mining (SAM) Project, in cooperation with Levin Sources, held a side event “Claiming rights and changing minds: Pathways to success in ASM formalisation and responsible sourcing in Mongolia”. The event started with a presentation, highlighting the transformations in the country’s ASM sector as a result of the project, implemented for 14 years since 2005 and which will close down in December 2019. It was followed by an armchair discussion among five panellists from SDC, the Mineral Resource and Petroleum Authority of Mongolia, the ASM National Federation, the Alliance for Responsible Mining, and artisanal miners, who shared information on the ASM legal environment, organisation, formalisation, the human rights approach, stakeholder cooperation, engagement, empowerment, and supply chain formalisation. The session was well attended, with an audience of about 40 participants.

These are the not-so-secret ingredients for the sector’s transformation which may serve as a toolkit for managing ASM in other contexts:

1. Good Governance, Legalisation, and Political Will

2. A Human Rights Based Approach and an Investment in People

3. Knowledge-Sharing

4. Private Sector Engagement and Fiscal System Planning

5. Donor Commitment and Local Ownership

Mongolia has made great strides in formalising ASM, and stakeholders are committed to addressing the hurdles that are yet to be overcome. Such widespread success in changing both hearts and minds, and institutions and processes, is rare in the world of ASM.

At the end of the side event, the small room in the 16th area of Paris was filled with commendation and inspiration. Only time will tell if those thoughts and sentiments will infuse future projects and interventions in the global ASM sector.