Artisanal mining should be legalised – analyst

7th June 2018 By: Anine Kilian - Contributing Editor Online

JOHANNESBURG ( – As industrial mining for gold declines, artisanal mining for gold in abandoned, ownerless and derelict mines will increase, making way for artisanal miners to mine abandoned shafts, says mining analyst David van Wyk.

Addressing delegates during a mining seminar at Sustainability Week 2018, in Pretoria, he pointed out that there were currently 30 000 illegal artisanal miners in Gauteng alone.

“Although they are considered illegal miners, they do contribute to the economy. Let us assume that for the 30 000 artisanal miners, there is a dependency ratio of 1:8. This means that 250 000 people survive on the work of artisanal miners for housing, school fees, food and clothes,” he pointed out.

He stressed that shutting down artisanal mining would result in 280 000 people being left without any means of survival.

“It is imperative to consider the impact of this on violent crime in the country, as well as the economic impact of taking their earnings out of the business cycle,” he said.

Van Wyk further noted that the environmental impact of artisanal miners was minimal, stressing that they used little water and produced negligent waste.

“With proper training and management their operations can be made much safer and [the use of] mercury can be phased out.”


He stressed the importance of distinguishing between “ghost mining” in operational industrial mines and micro and survival mining on abandoned, derelict and ownerless mines, adding that artisanal miners were entrepreneurs and that their operations could be classified as survivalist and micro.

“We need to begin to make a transition from large-scale industrial mining to small-scale mining that is orderly, sensible and safe.”

To achieve this, he noted that it was key to organise artisanal miners into legal business entities, such as cooperatives, and provide them with the required training.

He added that it would be beneficial to cluster these operations geographically into units of five to ten operations and assign an engineer and a health and safety officer to each cluster.

Van Wyk stated that creating a central buying agency on the demand side to buy gold from these small operations at market value and assisting with the creation of a formal supply chain to these operations, involving nearby communities, would create a positive ripple effect and small enterprise development in these communities.

“It is possible, given the will and commitment of government, to formalise and legitimise artisanal, survivalist mining,” he said.