Developing a Group-wide approach to artisanal and small-scale mining

During 2012, the Gold Fields Sustainable Development team commenced work on a Group-wide sustainable approach to artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). The ASM sector is a key economic activity in many resource-rich developing countries. However, its often unregulated nature means it can be linked to, for example, environmental damage, exploitative working conditions, child labour and land invasions. ASM activity takes place in close proximity to Gold Fields exploration projects and/or operations in Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Peru and the Philippines. Aside from the primary negative impacts that can result, this raises the risk that Gold Fields becomes unfairly associated with related environmental damage – or is subject to illegal occupations of its licence areas.

Nonetheless, ASM has the potential – if carried out in a legal and responsible way – to make a meaningful contribution to broad-based economic development through, for example, the provision of worthwhile employment. In this context, Gold Fields is committed to the development of a strategic approach to ASM that seeks to both promote responsible ASM and to achieve a constructive and sustainable solution to the challenge of illegal ASM.

Beginning with its West Africa region, Gold Fields Sustainable Development team commissioned a six-week baseline social study of ASM activities near the Tarkwa and Damang mines. This included direct engagement with local communities and small-scale miners. The study informed the development of an ASM strategy for both of Gold Fields Ghanaian operations. The strategy is aimed at ensuring the Company and its employees engage with ASM communities with respect and transparency, create shared value for all stakeholders (including responsible small-scale miners), protect Gold Fields operations from illegal ASM activity, maintain Gold Fields social licence to operate, and contribute to sustainable economic growth in Ghana.

The strategy focuses on six key areas (each of which includes a defined set of recommendations and goals for the short, medium and long term):

  • Security: Enhancing Gold Fields security measures, while maintaining strict adherence to human rights standards
  • Environment: Minimising the environmental impacts of illegal ASM activities through the collaborative promotion of sustainable environmental practices
  • Stakeholders: Building trust and understanding among local communities, including through the raising of awareness around the negative impacts of illegal mining
  • Public outreach: Promoting Gold Fields role as a sector leader in ASM engagement beyond our immediate area of operation
  • Employees: Fostering a collaborative approach among Gold Fields employees to promote proactive vigilance around illegal ASM activity
  • Corporate development: Continually advancing Gold Fields understanding of global ASM issues

Gold Fields aim to build on this strategy to establish a consistent, Group-wide strategic approach to ASM – in the context of its promotion of shared value.