ARTISANAL AND SMALL-SCALE MINING CONFLICTS WITH CRITICAL ECOSYSTEMS AND PROTECTED AREAS IN MADAGASCAR

 

Timothy Healy
Aquaterre, IUCN Member, Madagascar

 

Abstract

The evolution of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Madagascar began in the early 19th century for gold, and more recently for gemstones. Gemstone ASM developed through an international demand for what local people regarded as a mere abject stone.Meanwhile, gold has had a local market for principally jewellery and more recently a stronger international worth associated with laundering of money. Gemstone rushes are often large scale events involving young men, while gold is more often associated with smaller groups or families. Both markets are dependent on a chain of buyers and sellers. Sites for both gold and gems have and continue to occur throughout the country. Overall, there is compatibility between the ASM informal sectors and with illicit markets. In Madagascar there have been a series of legislation reforms in mining sectors with social and environmental obligations through permitting. For biodiversity, Protected Area (PA) coverage has increased with new IUCN category 5 & 6 PAs, which can integrate ASM activities. However, these regulations are not enforced andgovernment has repeatedly made mistakes through several bans of gold or gem exports, further encouraging the black-market and mainstream unemployment. Poverty stimulates ASM interests and the related social risks which are higher for gemstones than for gold due to mining techniques. The specific social risks include death, injury, theft, diseases, prostitution, poor education, and limited or no social security. Direct physical damage to the environment affects principally water and soils, but also losses of habitats and species. Indirect and opportunist impacts are associated with hunting, felling, charcoal, and agriculture. The financial implications from ASM are broad. There can be significant cash for gold miners of more than US$10 per day while this can be much higher for gem miners, but investment risks are also higher. Local economic developments include shops, transport and policing, as well as local sales, although this can be a curse with rising prices. This process is juxtaposed with black-markets, money laundering and tax avoidance. Therefore, production and values for gold and gemstones remain a “mystery” with approximate figures from various authorities. Until now there have been inadequate or inappropriate responses from government. Meanwhile, ASM continues to be associated with major social concerns and environmental damage. These processes have rendered financial losses to the state, but gainful employment for many miners. To improve the relationship between critical ecosystems and PAs in the future requires applied reforms to the sector. Educating and integrating miners into a formal economic system, transparency through formal sales offices,added value to gold and gems, and enforcement of law will enable financing for both miners and for wildlife and mining authorities.

 

Presentation Topic

ARTISANAL AND SMALL-SCALE MINING CONFLICTS WITH CRITICAL ECOSYSTEMS AND PROTECTED AREAS IN MADAGASCAR
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