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Socioeconomic dimensions of mercury pollution abatement: Engaging artisanal mining communities in Sub-Saharan Africa

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  • Spiegel, Samuel J.

Abstract

In recent years, strategies to tackle mercury pollution from artisanal gold mining have mainly included restrictions -- banning mercury trade internationally, prescribing alternate technologies and tightening regulations on mining (e.g. banning mercury use). However, artisanal mining communities in Africa are often trapped in cycles of poverty that make it difficult for workers to improve technologies and reduce mercury pollution. This article assesses problems with narrow pollution abatement discourses and top-down regulations, examining the need for integrated approaches to address pollution and socioeconomic challenges in low income mining communities. It advances the hypothesis that pollution abatement strategies fail if they do not explicitly address local socioeconomic capacities for improving environmental management, informed by an adaptive understanding of labor dynamics. Case studies in Mozambique and Tanzania are examined where United Nations pilot projects sought to address local challenges. These combined training on improved technologies and environmental risk mitigation with efforts to empower miners by enhancing access to microfinance services and fairer gold marketing arrangements. These case studies demonstrate adaptive ways of engaging local concerns in mining areas, highlighting lessons that are especially urgent now that recent policy commitments from Europe and the United States to ban mercury exports have specifically sought to make mercury more expensive for African mining communities. Ultimately, the analysis suggests how regionally focused ecological economics research has a vital role to play in (a) revealing how narrowly conceived responses to pollution can yield counterproductive results as well as exacerbate exploitative labor conditions in low income contexts; and (b) stimulating analytic focus on innovative ways of integrating pollution reduction strategy with grassroots socioeconomic empowerment strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Spiegel, Samuel J., 2009. "Socioeconomic dimensions of mercury pollution abatement: Engaging artisanal mining communities in Sub-Saharan Africa," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(12), pages 3072-3083, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:12:p:3072-3083
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Spiegel, Samuel J., 2009. "Resource policies and small-scale gold mining in Zimbabwe," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 39-44.
    2. Tschakert, Petra, 2009. "Recognizing and nurturing artisanal mining as a viable livelihood," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 24-31.
    3. Mohammed Banchirigah, Sadia, 2006. "How have reforms fuelled the expansion of artisanal mining? Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 165-171, September.
    4. Ishihara, Hiroe & Pascual, Unai, 2009. "Social capital in community level environmental governance: A critique," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 1549-1562, March.
    5. Hilson, Gavin & Pardie, Sandra, 2006. "Mercury: An agent of poverty in Ghana's small-scale gold-mining sector?," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 106-116, June.
    6. Heemskerk, Marieke, 2001. "Do international commodity prices drive natural resource booms? An empirical analysis of small-scale gold mining in Suriname," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 295-308, November.
    7. Eleanor Fisher, 2008. "Artisanal gold mining at the margins of mineral resource governance: a case from Tanzania," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(2), pages 199-213.
    8. Gavin Hilson & Sadia Mohammed Banchirigah, 2009. "Are Alternative Livelihood Projects Alleviating Poverty in Mining Communities? Experiences from Ghana," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(2), pages 172-196.
    9. Dondeyne, S. & Ndunguru, E. & Rafael, P. & Bannerman, J., 2009. "Artisanal mining in central Mozambique: Policy and environmental issues of concern," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 45-50.
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    Cited by:

    1. Saldarriaga-Isaza, Adrián & Villegas-Palacio, Clara & Arango, Santiago, 2013. "The public good dilemma of a non-renewable common resource: A look at the facts of artisanal gold mining," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 224-232.
    2. Saldarriaga-Isaza, Adrián & Villegas-Palacio, Clara & Arango, Santiago, 2015. "Phasing out mercury through collective action in artisanal gold mining: Evidence from a framed field experiment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 406-415.
    3. Hilson, Gavin & Ackah-Baidoo, Abigail, 2011. "Can Microcredit Services Alleviate Hardship in African Small-scale Mining Communities?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 1191-1203, July.
    4. Clifford, Martin J., 2011. "Pork knocking in the land of many waters: Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Guyana," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 354-362.
    5. Saldarriaga-Isaza, Adrián & Arango, Santiago & Villegas-Palacio, Clara, 2015. "A behavioral model of collective action in artisanal and small-scale gold mining," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 98-109.
    6. Bosse Jønsson, Jesper & Charles, Elias & Kalvig, Per, 2013. "Toxic mercury versus appropriate technology: Artisanal gold miners’ retort aversion," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 60-67.
    7. repec:eee:ecolec:v:144:y:2018:i:c:p:1-11 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Fritz, Morgane M.C. & Maxson, Peter A. & Baumgartner, Rupert J., 2016. "The mercury supply chain, stakeholders and their responsibilities in the quest for mercury-free gold," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 177-192.

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