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Implications of the Minamata Convention on Mercury for informal gold mining in Sub-Saharan Africa: from global policy debates to grassroots implementation?

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  • Samuel Spiegel

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  • Susan Keane
  • Steve Metcalf
  • Marcello Veiga

Abstract

In October 2013, after years of negotiation, governments from 92 countries signed a historic agreement called the Minamata Convention on Mercury, establishing mandatory measures to curb mercury use and pollution. Article 7 of the Convention stipulates that governments must create National Action Plans to reduce and where feasible eliminate mercury use in artisanal gold mining, a rapidly growing informal sector in much of Africa, with strategies to be monitored by the Convention Secretariat. The purpose of this study is to critically analyze the implications of the Minamata Convention for the artisanal mining sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, which currently depends upon mercury amalgamation for gold extraction. Our analysis draws on examples from Zimbabwe and Tanzania, countries with divergent political challenges but both with expanding artisanal mining sectors. We argue that a paradigm shift is needed to address intertwined technological, political and socio-economic challenges facing marginalized populations in mining communities. We highlight why meeting the Convention targets requires that international donors and national policymakers proactively engage—rather than vilify—artisanal miners who use mercury, prioritizing local knowledge and collaborative community-based decision making to develop effective pollution abatement initiatives in gold mining regions. We further argue that gender-sensitive grassroots empowerment initiatives including microfinance programs are vital to facilitate adopting cleaner technology, as required by Article 7. Finally, the analysis underscores the need for fundamentally reforming national mining policy priorities, recognizing marginalized mining communities’ resource rights and tackling livelihood insecurity as part of efforts to implement the Minamata Convention. In considering what ‘grassroots’ implementation could mean, the article contributes to a growing body of scholarship calling attention to fairness and equity concerns in order to achieve the aims of global environmental agreements. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

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  • Samuel Spiegel & Susan Keane & Steve Metcalf & Marcello Veiga, 2015. "Implications of the Minamata Convention on Mercury for informal gold mining in Sub-Saharan Africa: from global policy debates to grassroots implementation?," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 765-785, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:endesu:v:17:y:2015:i:4:p:765-785 DOI: 10.1007/s10668-014-9574-1
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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. Sandra Bhatasara, 2013. "Black granite mining and the implications for the development of sustainability in Zimbabwe: the case of Mutoko communities," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, pages 1527-1541.
    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. Henrik Selin, 2014. "Global Environmental Law and Treaty-Making on Hazardous Substances: The Minamata Convention and Mercury Abatement," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, pages 1-19.
    5. Samuel J. Spiegel, 2012. "Microfinance services, poverty and artisanal mineworkers in Africa: In search of measures for empowering vulnerable groups," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 485-517, May.
    6. Emmanuel Kumi & Albert Arhin & Thomas Yeboah, 2014. "Can post-2015 sustainable development goals survive neoliberalism? A critical examination of the sustainable development–neoliberalism nexus in developing countries," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 539-554, June.
    7. Steinar Andresen & Kristin Rosendal & Jon Skjærseth, 2013. "Why negotiate a legally binding mercury convention?," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 425-440, November.
    8. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2009:99:s3:s550-558_1 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Erica Field & Rohini Pande & John Papp & Natalia Rigol, 2013. "Does the Classic Microfinance Model Discourage Entrepreneurship among the Poor? Experimental Evidence from India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 2196-2226.
    10. 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.
    11. Childs, John, 2014. "A new means of governing artisanal and small-scale mining? Fairtrade gold and development in Tanzania," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 128-136.
    12. Gavin Hilson & Mark Hirons & Mark Hirons, 2011. "Locking‐In Carbon, Locking‐Out Livelihoods? Artisanal Mining And Redd In Sub‐Saharan Africa," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(8), pages 1140-1150, November.
    13. Jody Emel & Madoshi H. Makene & Esther Wangari, 2012. "Problems with Reporting and Evaluating Mining Industry Community Development Projects: A Case Study from Tanzania," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(2), pages 1-21, February.
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