Foundations for Mining works in parts of the world where artisanal or micro-scale miners set out to dig the many minerals and metals that make up the technology so many of us take for granted. Theirs is a world with minimum technology and little capital to buy the simple implements they will use for mining. F4M is involved not just in supporting the artisanal miners to try and find better and safer ways to work, but also in confronting some of the other negative influences that the communities grapple with on a daily basis.
While legislation and cultural change towards products not made from newly mined minerals, metals, and stones may in due course ‘make mining history’, the world that F4M is trying to engage with is mining as livelihood, not for profit or consumption. Millions of the world’s poorest make their daily living through scratching, rooting and digging around in the soils, riverbeds, and rocks of their neighbourhoods to feed their families and acquire necessities.
Sadly, children of school-going age are often involved in helping their families make a living.
Some digging goes deep enough to be called underground mining, and often ore is hoisted from a pit using little more than a plastic bucket and rope.
Once hoisted, the rocks need to be crushed into smaller pieces by hand, before being milled into powder, and the powder is then washed in hand-held basins into which highly-poisonous mercury has also been added. During the panning, free gold particles amalgamate with the mercury and are trapped in the bottom of the pan.
The amalgam is then heated over an open fire in small containers and the mercury burned off, leaving beads of impure gold. These impure beads are then sold immediately for cash to local gold dealers.
This the world that CRED is engaged with through their partners ‘Foundations for Mining’ who are active in Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. F4M is looking at life from the underground up, from the perspective of the marginalised, the sufferers, the disadvantaged, whose daily toil, and dangers to be faced, should not be ignored in our quest to consume gold, cobalt, lithium, to name three of their products.
Some of the ways in which F4M is engaging with the artisanal miners include:
- Equipping women miners whose task is to treat the discards to remove remaining particles of gold, hard work with low reward. This then reduces the expense of equipment loans and increases their take-home money.
- Equipping rooms or buildings to be used for business training workshops and for pastoral/ counselling work with individual miners.
- Supporting local professionals who deliver the training or help that is required to transform communities.
- Initially purchasing and donating mobile equipment that will improve efficiencies, as well as reducing labour, costs, and environmental pollution by mercury. Once these advantages are seen and accepted by local entrepreneurs, the system will become self-supporting.
- Supporting motorcycle-riding operators who demonstrate expertise and bravery in taking their equipment to out-of-the-way mining sites.
- Initially donating personal protective equipment and other materials to improve safety, health, productivity, and reduce the negative environmental impact of artisanal mining.
- Financially assisting communities to reach the standards of the CRAFT 2.0 Code for Artisanal Mineral Producers, where costs of compliance are incurred that are too great for mining communities to meet.
We hope you are stirred by this brief overview of the sector and look forward to your response.