Expanded programme brings better prospects for small-scale miners

In 2015, Solidaridad received the results of four external evaluations from the first five years of its programme implementation in small and medium-sized gold mines. The lessons learned were valuable for Solidaridad and its partners, especially since 2015 marked the kick-off of our five-year strategic plan (2016-2020) as well as the start of three new projects and the extension of an ongoing project. This new work aims to extend responsible practices to at least 30 new mines.

Number of miners supported


Total volume of gold produced (kg)



Solidaridad launched three new projects in 2015 with the goal of adding up to 30 mining associations to its network by 2020. This increase would double the size of our miner support programme.

These include:

  • A five-year project to expand our producer support to 30 new artisanal and small-scale mines (ASM) in Ghana and Tanzania
  • A four-year project to support and increase knowledge on good mining practices among lawmakers and other stakeholders in the Andes region
  • A five and a half-year project to work with Dutch and European governments to develop policies and incentives for sourcing responsible mining and traceable gold
  • The Dutch “Going for Gold” campaign, with support from Olympic gold medallists, to increase public awareness of the need for responsible gold

In addition, Solidaridad and its partner Fairtrade Foundation secured funding for the second phase of our successful ongoing support of ASM mines in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. 

Solidaridad’s work in mining communities was the subject of four external evaluations that covered our work in Peru, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Europe. Highlights include:

  • Mercury use fell from 38% to zero among an association of ASM miners on the concession of our partner mine, Minera Yanaquihua, in Peru.
  • Our projects improved health conditions in ASM mining communities in Peru, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
  • Production increased in mines that committed to sustainable practices in our programme in East Africa, making the mines more resilient to price fluctuations.

Solidaridad's new five-year strategic plan aims to increase the volume of responsible gold available in the market to 125 tonnes by 2020.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • Andes

    Solidaridad seeks to reinforce new policy development in Colombia, and to capitalize on a growing interest in Bolivia for the formalization process. That’s why Solidaridad has created a knowledge platform for learning and sharing research design and results about solutions to issues relating to Latin American artisanal and small-scale mining. These solutions will be tailored to each country’s legal status and progress.

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  • East & Central Africa

    Transformation to a safe and responsible artisanal and small-scale mining industry with the potential to reduce pollution will not be realized in isolation. Concerted efforts associated with the best possible practices for biodiversity management are required to provide access to capital, technical assistance and capacity building to improve practices that help the community access international markets for differentiated gold, and encourage a better policy environment.

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  • The Netherlands

    In 2015 Solidaridad took the lead in establishing a new responsible gold dialogue in the Netherlands, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, private sector actors and other civil society organizations. The aim is to secure concrete commitments for improving the gold value chain. We also launched the Going for Gold campaign in collaboration with the Dutch Postcode Lottery. We enlisted a team of Olympic medallists to reflect on winning gold, both for themselves and for small-scale miners in Africa.

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Instability in the price of gold caused mines worldwide to scale back in 2015. Boom-and-bust cycles are common in mining communities. Workers in small mines are especially vulnerable to downturns, which makes our work to help small mines access a value-added market and plan for the future even more vital.

The European Union is expected to pass a new regulation in 2016 to increase the number of companies that trace their sources of conflict minerals, including gold. Despite a 2,000% increase between 2012 and 2015 in the number of licensed fairtrade buyers, the amount of certified gold on the market remains small. Prices are high because demand exceeds supply. There is an urgent need to upscale responsible sourcing programmes to meet the demand created by the new EU rules. Better public policy is needed to incentivize good practices. Companies can also contribute to this by investing in improvements for their supply chains.

International dialogue is focused on conflict minerals, which originate from several high risk countries. Meanwhile, ASM mining is going on in nearly 80 countries and many mines face serious social and environmental challenges. Attention on the conflict countries must be matched with work in more stable countries so that the sector can support more miners even faster while creating economies of scale.

Programme investments in thousand euros


Contracted partners per region excluding producer organizations



Solidaridad entered a new coalition partnership in 2015 with Dutch organizations Simavi and Healthy Entrepreneurs. This five-year project, funded by the Dutch government, aims to empower women in mining communities in Ghana and Tanzania by working with up to 30 small-scale mines. Simavi will work in the surrounding communities to improve health and sanitation. Healthy Entrepreneurs will enable women to start their own businesses selling high-quality, low-cost health products and increasing awareness of proper health practices.This partnership is important because women typically experience the biggest negative impacts from mining while being denied equal access to the benefits.

Solidaridad is also starting a partnership with the Dutch government for “dialogue and dissent” in Dutch and European policy. This is the continuation of our work in early 2015 to help the Dutch government and private sector gold buyers establish a roundtable for responsible mining in the Netherlands which was attended by over 100 stakeholders. Solidaridad is also participating in new international public-private partnerships create the potential for better cross-sectoral cooperation and new partnerships.

Solidaridad has continued its close work with certification bodies Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), Fairtrade International (Fairtrade) and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC Code of Practices).

RJC highlighted the successes of Solidaridad’s partnership with Peruvian mining company Minera Yanaquihua in its 2015 Impacts Report.


Falling gold prices meant that mineworkers who had been trained in Solidaridad’s programme left mining by choice or were laid off. In a couple of cases, mines suspended operations and our future work with them is uncertain. We need to plan better for the likelihood that some mines will not be able to continue as partners. In addition, we will enable mines to be more resilient to market downturns, for instance by managing cash flow and savings more effectively.

Beyond the mines themselves, better systems are needed to transform the sector and upscale successful pilot projects. Policymakers need to adopt the right balance between controls and incentives for good practice. Gold buyers have yet to embrace broader cooperation, for instance between jewellery, electronics and financial companies. At the market end, the volume of responsibly produced gold available to buyers remains low and is not consistent. This is limiting uptake, particularly among large gold buyers and leading brands that often demand minimum volumes and reliable supply before they will commit to responsible gold.

Because of the need for greater cooperation, Solidaridad is helping to organize dialogues with the Dutch and European governments as well as a range of gold buyers. Solidaridad also secured funding to develop a knowledge-sharing platform in the Andes region.

Small and medium-size mines that have committed to better practices urgently need investment. Grants-based assistance is typically limited in time and can lead to dependency. It is therefore important to match initial grants with access to appropriate investment such as debt or equity financing. In this way, mines that commit to better practices have access to funding for their continued improvement once grants-based assistance is phased out.

Jennifer Horning

International Programme Coordinator, Gold