By Jeroen Cuvelier
Resource Governance and State Fragility in the DRC
Non-industrial mining, carried out by vast numbers of men, women and children working for themselves, is rising fast in resource-rich Third World countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2003, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) provided direct employment to an estimated 11.5 million to 13 million people around the world. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the processes of globalisation, economic liberalisation and political transformation have helped to generate unprecedented interest in mineral resources on the part of impoverished ordinary people, entrepreneurs, traders, rebels and badly paid army officers. Hundreds of thousands of prospective workers have travelled to artisanal mining sites in the hope of finding a new source of income.
In spite of its spectacular expansion, however, ASM has not shaken off its negative reputation among policymakers and development specialists. The sector is frequently presented as technologically backward and inefficient, with limited potential for poverty reduction. Moreover, these circles assume the sector is almost ungovernable due to the large number of actors involved, the lack of binding property rights for artisanal miners, the virtual absence of written contracts and the inherently ephemeral nature of artisanal digging activities. Since those attracted to artisanal mining are predominantly young people - many of them from poor backgrounds - these commentators suspect that the potential for conflict in artisanal mining areas is relatively high.
Eager to get a firmer grip on the sector, several donor bodies and international institutions have made considerable efforts to formalise ASM activities and to improve the livelihoods of artisanal miners. The World Bank has provided financial support to countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Tanzania, with a view to encouraging their ASM sectors to take on more formal trappings. Meanwhile, the European Union, the International Labour Organisation and the UN Industrial Development Organisation have financed projects in the fields of environmental management, labour, alternative livelihoods and technological development.