An Accelerated Route to Responsible Mining

Solidaridad introduced an innovative model, the Accelerator for Responsible Gold, in 2017 in response to the rapid global growth of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). By developing a small business incubator, Solidaridad will enable entrepreneurs to deliver the equipment and knowledge needed for responsible ASM and adopt good practices faster. The global spotlight on gender inequity in 2017 was reflected in Solidaridad’s growing focus on women’s economic empowerment in ASM in both established and new partnerships.

Number of miners supported


Total volume of sustainably produced gold (kg)



Given the challenges associated with the growth of ASM, Solidaridad’s focus has shifted to scaling its success more rapidly through the Accelerator for Responsible Gold. In 2017, Solidaridad secured funding for this innovative model. The main component of the accelerator is a small business incubator to develop service skills. These service providers can then support miners in Solidaridad’s programme, and indeed, any miner in the country. Piloting is taking place in Ghana and will expand to two more countries by 2019. Participation by gold buying companies will take place via an international platform.

In Uganda, Solidaridad began a new two-year project to tackle child labour, which accounts for nearly one-third of the ASM workforce, by creating a “Child Labour Free Zone” in the Busia District. The scheme is a public-private partnership with Fairphone, Philips, Fairtrade, Unicef, Hivos and the Dutch government.

Solidaridad also received a positive independent end evaluation for its four-year “Partnering for Better Livelihoods in the Gold Supply Chain” project in Ghana and Peru. It found that Solidaridad had contributed to better conditions for 1,667 miners and mine workers, and had established a health centre to serve an additional 1,625 people through this “highly relevant programme”. One important conclusion was that Solidaridad needs to be better at communicating its lessons learned to national governments to stimulate policy change.

In 2017, the Solidaridad gold team also launched projects to engage new voices in support of responsible mining via policy dialogues in Bolivia and Ghana. In Bolivia, Solidaridad hosted a Gold Symposium for over 200 attendees and released a groundbreaking study into women in ASM.  

Minera Yanaquihua in Peru successfully achieved recertification for the Responsible Jewellery Council standard.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • East & Central Africa

    Solidaridad continued to implement gold programmes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda aiming to support miners in good mining practices in terms of Fairtrade mining standards. The Solidaridad gold programme in these countries conducted training on Fairtrade mining standards reaching 434 miners.

  • South America

    For the first time in Bolivia, the Gold Symposium brought together mining sector associations and the government. Together, they set 27 sector priorities to redesign public policies to enable more responsible practices in the associative sector. In addition, Solidaridad presented the first gender analysis in the Bolivian mining sector. These results were based on a study completed in Peru in 2016. In Peru, Yanaquihua mining company renewed its Responsible Jewellery Council certification, first obtained in 2014.

  • West Africa

    Interventions were focused on enhancing livelihoods in mining communities and supporting responsible small-scale mining. A government policy to ban small-scale mining in Ghana affected programme implementation. Despite this, the programme was able to sign a memorandum of understanding with 13 small-scale mines. In addition, Solidaridad formalized its partnership with the Minerals Commission of Ghana to support responsible small-scale mining and has contributed to the development of the Multilateral Mining Integrated Project of Ghana.


An Intergovernmental Forum (IGF) report found that in 2017 the number of ASM miners around the world had grown since 2009 from an estimated 25 million to 40 million. Today, nearly 150 million people indirectly depend on ASM in 80 countries. This has resulted in the proportion of minerals produced by the ASM sector rising from 10% to 20% of global supply, with gold being the most produced mineral.

At the same time, challenges such as competition for land have increased. Fortunately, the international community is taking notice. In May, the EU passed a law requiring gold buyers to perform due diligence to ensure their purchases are not supporting conflict. The Global Environment Facility launched a multi-million dollar fund for improvements in ASM practices related to mercury use in eight countries. The World Bank and OECD announced they are joining forces to develop a global platform for ASM learning. In addition, the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals, co-founded by Solidaridad, made its first impact grants.

The percentage of donor funds invested in improving practices in the minerals sector remains a tiny fraction of that invested in the agricultural sector. Solidaridad has worked hard this year to share its lessons learned with policymakers and donors. In addition, Solidaridad observed more gold-buying companies claiming to source 100% recycled gold in 2017. Recycling and closed-loop measures have big environmental benefits, but given the millions of people who depend on ASM mining, companies that choose 100% recycled gold are also disengaging from urgent needs in their supply chain. Further, several recent reports have identified loopholes in verification systems for recycled content. Solidaridad urges gold buyers to commit to a combined approach: reuse and recycle while also investing in addressing urgent needs at mining sites.


Gender issues took centre stage on the world scene in 2017. Women often bear the biggest burdens of mining but share few of the benefits. Solidaridad’s gold programme promotes women’s economic empowerment in gold mining communities through several partnerships.

Its Golden Line programme with non-profit Simavi and social venture Healthy Entrepreneurs is a five-year project (2016-2020) in 29 mining communities in Ghana and Tanzania. This was the first full year of activities at the community level, including training for men and women on the benefits of an inclusive economy.

In Bolivia and Peru, Solidaridad has been supporting stronger associations for women miners, included them in national dialogues, published profiles of the women and advocated nationally for greater recognition.

Solidaridad co-founded the Women’s Rights and Mining Working Group, an initiative aimed at increasing global awareness of women in mining, with eight civil society organizations, plus governments. The working group is planning a sector-wide event at the OECD in early 2018.

In partnership with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), Solidaridad is planning a separate dialogue to address gender issues and improve conditions in the jewellery supply chain. Solidaridad’s goal with BSR is to highlight opportunities for engagement. Solidaridad has sponsored women mining in the Global South to join.

Finally, in 2017 Solidaridad continued to play a leading role in building the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals, an initiative co-funded by public and private members. As well as being a platform for learning, the EPRM has started funding specific projects to improve practices in the supply chain.


In May 2017, Ghana, home to over 1 million ASM miners and the location of Solidaridad’s largest country programme for gold, announced a ban on all small-scale mining, including licensed, formal operations. The president explained that this was done to prevent illegal mining and to stop foreigners illegally entering the country to mine. The ban, originally announced as a short-term measure, has been extended to at least early 2018. While Solidaridad agrees with the government’s aims, it disagrees with the ban, which has seriously impacted the livelihoods of many legitimate small miners.

Despite the ban, Solidaridad was able to maintain non-mining activities such as training 130 mine managers on topics such as first aid and gender. This is much less than the numbers Solidaridad intended to reach but allowed the programme to proceed. Solidaridad also used this pivotal moment to advocate at the national level, arguing that ASM mining should be managed responsibly rather than outlawed.

Ghana is now drafting a new responsible ASM policy framework to be introduced when the ban is lifted. Solidaridad signed an MOU with the lead mining agency to promote a more responsible ASM sector and to co-host dialogues on effective ways forward. It also enabled the three largest ASM mining associations to advocate more effectively for improvements. Solidaridad expects that when the ban is lifted, miners, their communities and the environment will benefit more than ever.

Jennifer Horning

International Programme Coordinator, Gold