Socio-economic and environmental implications of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) on agriculture and livelihoods

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Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) activities continue to grow in many resource-endowed countries with ASM-generated revenues serving as a precursor to socio-economic growth especially in mineral-rich rural communities. However, the rapid proliferation of this extractive activity into new frontiers often extends to territories where, traditionally, agricultural activities may already be present. Considering the destructive effects of the ASM life cycle on the environment, concerns have been raised regarding the negative agricultural impacts of ASM. Thus in this paper, we review the Janus-faced nature of ASM as discourses have developed in the burgeoning literature. Our review reveals an emerging narrative suggesting that in some instances ASM and agriculture complement each other with beneficial consequences. Nevertheless, this highly informal type of mining can have deleterious effects on agriculture through three main mechanisms: land degradation and farm invasions, water and mercury pollution, and the Dutch disease phenomenon – the shift of labour from the agriculture sector to the ASM sector. As most of the operations of small-scale mineral extractors take place in rural communities where agriculture is the main source of livelihood, we find the creation of vulnerabilities in the agrarian economy through these mechanisms. Considering the economic importance of the two sectors to livelihoods, stakeholders would need to recast resources policy to ensure the proper accommodation of both sectors especially in the rural economic space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-220
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date18 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


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