Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is often informal in most parts of the world, including Kenya. However, the Kenyan government is working to ensure the ASGM community is formalized to allow unlocking their access to finances, and technologies. This way, miners’ productivity will improve the gold supply chain and significantly reduce global mercury pollution.
Kenya's (ASGM) sector is estimated to employ more than 300,000 people. In this respect, the planetGOLD Kenya project—a Global Environment Facility initiative, working in collaboration with the Kenyan government, the UNDP Kenya Program, and the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry as the implementing agency—is piloting mercury-free technologies in Kakamega, Migori, Vihiga, and Narok counties. The project covers nine Sub-Counties collaborating with relevant regional government agencies, county governments, and mining communities to support the industry's formalization by setting up channels for artisanal miners to access information on lowering mercury use and encouraging ethical mining practices.
The pilot sites were selected based on their potential for high ASGM activity and lack of formalized operations. The informal nature of the ASGM sector makes it difficult to organize and sensitize miners on the risks of mercury use in gold processing.
To solve this challenge, the planetGOLD Kenya project in October 2022 embarked on a month-long campaign to register miners into cooperatives, training them on the importance of coming together in cooperative governance. Miners were then clustered in the selected processing sites and the clusters supported in forming of Saving and Credit Cooperative Organizations/ Cooperatives (SACCOs). The SACCOs will run the designated ore processing sites which will be mercury-free processing sites.
During this exercise, the rights of miners and mining communities were protected and fulfilled. A total of 3,951 miners in 16 clusters were enlisted to form SACCOs. Moreover, more than five associations have already received registrations into SACCOs.
The government recognizes the cooperative movement as critical in pursuing socio-economic development. The formalization process, upon completion, will provide a platform for governance and investment in technological and social solutions to support reduction and ultimately eliminate mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold processing. Registration as cooperatives will facilitate members to process and market their gold together and increase access to credit from financial institutions.
The planetGOLD Kenya project is working to ensure the formalization of artisanal mining in Kenya by supporting miners to secure mining permits, mineral dealerships, and processing licenses. However, the State Department for Mining faces several obstacles that make it difficult to issue artisanal mining permits. These include needing more designated areas for the ASGM operations and the County Artisanal Mining Committees' inability to function since their founding due to a lack of funding. The project's Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is currently in discussions with the State Department for Mining to resolve these issues, allowing artisanal miners to obtain their mineral Dealer and Processing Licenses (DPL) and process gold without the use of mercury at their processing facilities.
Additionally, to apply for a dealership and processing license, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) mandates that an environmental impact assessment be completed at the chosen processing sites. The project is now concentrating on identifying and designing mercury-free technologies and equipment, which will be installed at the project's ore processing and gravimetric training plants. Six gravimetric plants will be built in the Kehancha, Lolgorian, Chavakali, Hamisi, Ikolomani, and Rosterman project sites, and one ore processing plant at Osiri. Mining organizations will learn technological skills at the training locations and are compelled to put those skills into effect at their processing locations under the project team's supervision.
Having put all these efforts together, we are confident that the formalization roadmap will be successful and will give miners and mining communities access to knowledge, funding, and technological transfer, ultimately improving their well-being and aiding in the achievement of planetGOLD Kenya's goal to eliminate 1.5 tonnes of mercury releases from Kenya's Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector