Health and environment in artisanal mines – Kamituga

Previous research by CEGEMI members has documented multiple health and environmental effects caused by artisanal and small-scale mining. Yet despite these risks, hundreds of thousands of people continue working and living in the mines, as they (in)directly depend on them for their livelihoods. Nevertheless, they are likely to suffer from the consequences of deforestation, water, dust pollution and soil degradation in the long run. What remains little understood, however, is whether the persistence of such harmful practices is mostly a matter of limited information, of limited resources (financial, material), of prioritization (trade-off between short-term economic gain and long-term gains), of structurally unequal power relations, of bad governance or misguided government policies, or due to something else. As long as this is insufficiently understood, all proposed solutions risk to either not be adapted to the context, or not be accepted by local populations (as happened in the case of the recent Ebola outbreak, Kasereka and Hawkes, 2019).

Building on this and together with a CEGEMI team, Prof. Geenen aims to find out how artisanal miners and local communities, but also other supply chain actors and (non-)governmental organizations can be actively involved in sensitization and adoption of better mining practices. To this end, we will set up a participatory action research in Kamituga, and try to learn from this experience to set up similar projects in other mines in the future.

The research questions are thus as follows:

1) How can we understand the persistence of harmful mining practices (i.c. with adverse health and environmental effects) in Kamituga’s ASGM mines?

2) How can all stakeholders participate in sensitization and adoption of better mining practices, to the benefit of ASGM miners and communities?

We made a first field visit to Kamituga between April 10 and 18. The team consisted of medical doctors, agronomists, economists and anthropologists. We applied a variety of methods: individual interviews, focus group interviews, participatory mapping, participatory risk ranking and the study of medical files and spoke to over 100 workers and other stakeholders. A report will become available as soon as possible.

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Research team in Kamituga