How to make artisanal and small-scale mining forest-smart

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Image: ELG21, Pixabay
Image: ELG21, Pixabay

Mining is the fourth driver of deforestation—after agriculture, wood production, and urban growth—accounting for 7% of tropical and sub-tropical forest loss.

The latest IPCC report shows that human use of land, including agriculture, forestry, or mining, is the second leading cause of climate change, emitting a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) mainly from deforestation.

The world cannot afford to lose more forests.

Forests are vital to people and the planet, supplying the air we breathe and providing water to nearly 1.6 billion people.

A low-carbon future requires significant investment and innovation to stop forest loss and damage.

Forest-Smart Mining

Through its Climate-Smart Mining initiative, the World Bank Group and  PROFOR published in 2019 a series of reports identifying the impacts of artisanal and large-scale mining on deforestation worldwide and highlighting good and bad practices in forest-smart mining.

This research pointed out the lack of comprehensive guidance on managing artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in forest landscapes. This paucity of research on the topic is detrimental as there are nearly 100 million artisanal miners globally in more than 80 countries; Many depend on forests' natural resources and services for their livelihoods.

How to be forest-smart? Feedback from Suriname and Guinea

On April 28, a forest-smart mining event focused on ASM took place to advance the concept and practice of Forest Smart Mining for the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) sector.

Suriname's Minister of Natural Resources, David Abiamofo, and Madame Louopou Lamah, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development from Guinea, highlighted the constant challenge of finding ways to support "livelihood" priorities, including mining activities, while safeguarding forests and biodiversity.

Representatives of the private sector and civil society underscored the need to build miners' capacity to produce to limit deforestation impacts and the importance of consulting with local communities and developing options that address their priorities. 

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) must become forest-smart

Our new report, supported by FCPF, Developing Forest-Smart Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Standards, together with the standard for forest-smart ASM, highlights forest-smart mining principles to help miners and local support organizations mitigate ASM impacts on forests and better safeguard their values.

This work is critical to safeguard local communities and Indigenous Peoples' rights, build ecosystem resilience, and reduce GHG emissions.

Among ASM entities, conducting mining activity in a forest-smart manner requires a specific approach that helps avoid, minimize, mitigate, or remediate the degradation and destruction of forest landscapes.

Here are three basic principles to achieve forest-smart mining in the ASM sector:

  • Principle 1: Forest ecosystem safeguard and resilience: biodiversity, carbon, and ecosystem services: mining needs to be informed by the range of forest values that combine habitats for species and ecosystem services for people and the planet.
  • Principle 2: Human rights approaches to ASM: communities and livelihoods, both local and global: The crucially important forest values need to be balanced and assessed alongside human rights-based values that recognize that ASM communities have a right to life and livelihood.
  • Principle 3: Commitment to the mitigation hierarchy: practical approaches to forest-impact avoidance, minimization, and rehabilitation: The mitigation hierarchy can inform how a systematic array of practices can be developed that enable ASM impacts on forests to be avoided (in part), reduced, and rehabilitated.

A sustainable future is possible. Well-managed forests have the potential to reduce poverty, improve land productivity, create diverse and alternative livelihoods, contribute to a healthy local and global environment, and sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. 

Download: Report | Standards

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Idriss Deffry

Environmental specialist, World Bank

John Drexhage

Climate change and sustainable resource development advisior, The World Bank Group.

Susana Moreira

Senior gas specialist, The World Bank

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