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Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in Africa has Grown Significantly in Recent Decades

Between 1999 and 2019, the estimated number of African miners engaged in this sector increased from two million to 10 million. In Africa, artisanal and small-scale mining is widely perceived as a low productivity and subsistence activity. It is the common view of international financial institutions, international and African development agencies, and African governments that it should therefore make way for the superior expertise and efficiency of experienced multinational mining corporations. These corporations, it’s assumed, are much better equipped than African miners to drive economic growth and development. From this perspective, the forced displacement of African miners to make way for industrial projects led by foreign mining corporates – as has taken place across the continent over the last few decades – is relatively unproblematic. Over the last few decades, national and regional African mining policy has tended to constrain rather than encourage artisanal and small-scale mining. Instead, priority has been given to large-scale industrial mining. New research challenges the wisdom of this approach.