Basic digital solutions for the artisanal sector

This is not just a Zimbabwean problem and 2019 has particularly registered a high number of fatalities from the artisanal sector in many mineral rich countries.

Recently 43 artisanal miners lost their lives in a landslide after they breached security and entered the mining concession at Kamoto Copper Company operations in the southern part of the DRC.

This is devastating because when the criminal element of their behavior is cast aside, one finds ordinary men and women trying to make a living in difficult circumstances and with little resources to aid their cause.

The case for artisanal miners has already been adequately made and now solid interventions need to be taken to sanitize the sector in Africa.

Following from the same, Autem Mining Consultancy has been devoting its energy into developing different models that can be utilized by mineral rich countries to formalize the artisanal sector in a sustainable manner. The discussion below summarizes one such proposal.

In order

 rich governments cannot maintain the status quo where artisanal mining remains outside the economy mainstream because the sector is growing in considerable numbers every day and the clashes between artisanal miners, government, commercial mining entities and communities are increasing.

 to establish a picture of some elements of the model, the following discussion will utilize the Zimbabwean artisanal gold sector as a pilot scenario.

The model suggests the integration of digital solutions to the regulation and oversight of the sector and requires extensive collaboration between multiple stakeholders, in this case the following players are required, that is; government, telecoms companies, banks, digital solutions service providers, Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR), millers/ processing points and artisanal miners.

FPR is the sole gold buying entity in Zimbabwe thus represents the mineral buying agent within the model; this position can be also taken up by any mineral commodity trading company or the national minerals marketing authority in the relevant mineral rich country.

The model can be developed to assist any mineral sector and can be implemented in any country.

The models’ foundation is premised on taking decisive measures in embracing artisanal miners as legitimate producers.

This requires introducing bold and clear policy, legal and regulatory reforms that will allow ordinary individuals to be able to join the mining sector and become legal artisan participants.

It is clear that artisanal mining is now a permanent fixture in the mining industry. It is particularly attractive and vicious in stressed and poorly performing economies that continue to experience increasing wealth inequality and high unemployment rates.

It has become apparent that mineral

It is more effective to bring full range integration of the sector into the mining sector.

The artisanal sector is a unique sector. It presents itself in various forms such as groupings of people working together and sometimes as individuals’ pursuing solo enterprise

The solution for dealing with artisanal miners is to legally recognize and embrace individuals and coordinated groups as legitimate producers and enable them to contribute as standalone producers or as partnered producers in the mining sector.

In order to achieve this, the conditions for formalization have to be re-conceptualized and watered down so as to allow this new set of participants.

Registration and licensing requirements can be based on a simple structure that requires an artisanal miner who has a registered mobile number, an identity document, a nominal fee and the attendance of a short basic introductory course which details mining basics and the regulatory requirements.

The course can be facilitated and wholly funded by government, tertiary institutions and development partners. These requirements are easily accessible and attainable.

The registration procedure can thereafter also collect all other relevant details pertaining to the miner. The requirement for a registered mobile number is vital because mobile technology can be utilized to link and provide digital regulatory and sector solutions to artisanal miners as will be illustrated in this proposal.

Once registered, the miner can be allocated a unique digital ID code that will be used to identify them wherever they are operating in the country and at any Ministry of Mines sub office across the provinces.

For instance, if the miner starts by mining in one province then decides to relocate to another province, then all they would need to do is report to the provincial mines office, tag in, and thereafter be assigned to a mining site or area of operation.

The model can also work with miners working as a group, the group will be required to register with the Ministry of Mines and be issued with a unique group digital ID code whose digits will be made up of the group ID code and the individual suffix number for each member.

Once registered, the artisanal miners can be allocated work sites in their preferred area of operation. This kind of registration system and regulatory solution will require governments’ to embrace and take up digital strategies to manage to sector.

The nomadic nature of the artisanal sector requires a very flexible and malleable system that can follow its participants and continue to have oversight and interaction with them.

The most appropriate strategy in this case would be to weave in digital solutions to the governing structure of the sector because they are easily adaptable and agile.

The next facet of the model requires the establishment and coupling of milling facilities with gold buying centers in areas that have been designated for artisanal mining.

The proximity of these two elements to artisanal mining sites is important because it avails infrastructure for immediate processing and disposal of gold. The approach will also assist in reducing vulnerability to illicit dealings.

When the miner goes to a designated miller with ore, the mill or processing plant will act as a vital oversight and informative point. It is suggested that every mill or processing point should be fully registered and fiscalized, that is, they should be fitted with and synchronized with fiscally linked systems that can verify the quantity of milled product and issue a fiscal receipt showing the same.

Fiscal registers at milling points have the potential to improve remittance of gold production and can become a vital cog in preventing mineral leakages and improving the accuracy and transparency of gold production statistics.

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