The Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Knowledge Sharing Archive

ASM Inventory

World Map of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining: ASM Population

Map 1: Estimated number of artisanal and small-scale miners per country

World Map of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining: Rural ASM Population (%)

Map 2: Estimated number of artisanal and small-scale miners as percentage of rural population


Numbers of artisanal and small-scale miners were estimated from published sources believed reliable (see below).
Sources date from different years, with the first comprehensive inventory published already back in 1999. Estimations take this partly into account, adjusting the numbers to recent changes of the ASM context (e.g. correlation of attractivity of ASM with commodity prices, where applicable, according to main ASM commodities of the countries; or demographic changes).

Another issue is related with the underlying definition of ASM. Only recently a broad description of ASM was formulated by OECD that has the potential to be widely accepted as a generic ASM definition. Data from past inventories were assessed using different ASM definitions and sometimes even mixed approaches (i.e. respecting different country-specific assessment methods) related to what is considered ASM.

Finally assessments by different sources also vary in their focus on minerals extracted by ASM. Some assessments focus more on gold, as the most emblematic ASM commodity, other assessments take a more holistic approach covering also minerals extracted artisanally for local supply such as construction materials.

The dataset currently contains quantitative data from 76 countries and qualitative data from 33 countries. Based on these data, a number of 40.1 million ASM miners (+/- 25%) is considered plausible. To improve data consistency, more work is needed, particularly benchmarking ASM country data with contemporary ASM definitions such as from OECD (see below), disaggregating by gender, and aligning criteria for counting ASM miners.

Main Map Data Sources:

Global baseline studies

ILO (1999) (N.Jennings): Social and labour issues in small-scale mines. Report for discussion at the Tripartite Meeting on Social and Labour Issues in Small-scale Mines. Geneva.

MMSD (2003) (T.Hentschel, F.Hruschka, M.Priester): Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining - Challenges and Opportunities. London.

IIED (2013) (A.Buxton): Responding to the challenge of artisanal and small-scale mining. How can knowledge networks help? London.

UBC (2014) (J.Seccatore, M.Veiga, C.Origliasso, T.Marin, G.deTomi): An estimation of the artisanal small-scale production of gold in the world. Scitotenv. 496.

Regional and other baseline data

Cook, R.; Healy, T. (2012): Madagascar case study: Artisanal Mining Rushes in Protected Areas and a Response Toolkit. ASM-PACE. (UK).

Echavarria, C.; Reynolds, F. (2015): Participation as policy: time to formalise artisanal and smallscale mining in Colombia. In IIED Briefing February.

Hilson, G.; Hilson, A. (2015): Entrepreneurship, poverty and sustainability. Critical reflections on the formalisation of small-scale mining in Ghana. International Growth Centre (IGC). London (UK).

Hollestelle, M. (2012): Gabon Case Study Report. ASM-PACE. (UK).

Small, R. (2012): Liberia Case Study Report. ASM-PACE. (UK).

SPDA (2014): La realidad de la mineria ilegal en paises amazonicos. Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela. (PE).

IGF (2017): Desert Gold Rush: Mauritania.

Cote d' Ivoire: Ministry at OECD 2017; Personal communications by H.W. and M.O. on Sudan, M.M. on Morocco, F.H. on Afghanistan, etc. (+various other qualitative and partly anecdotic sources, such as comments from colleagues, news articles, social media, etc.)

Demographic data

Map 1 does not use demographic data.

As ASM represents a rural livelihood, Map 2 displays the ASM population as percentage of the rural population in 2015 (most recent World Bank data available in early 2017).

Creative Commons License
This data compilation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For individual data sources, the source's licenses apply.

ASM Definition

What is Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM)?

The often quoted expression "Artisanal mining is meaning different things to different people" reflects the vast diversity of a sector for which, since the 1970s, it appeared almost impossible to agree on a common definition. In 2004, participants of the World Bank led "small-scale mining is here to stay - workshop" in Bulawayo still "defined" the activity by stating: "We recognize artisanal small-scale miners when we see them". A lot of progress has been achieved since. In 2012, for the purpose of distinguishing between ASM and other mining activities, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in Annex 2 of its Due Diligence Guidance, formulated an ASM definition that describes ASM as:

"formal or informal mining operations with predominantly simplified forms of exploration, extraction, processing, and transportation. ASM is normally low capital intensive and uses high labour intensive technology. ASM can include men and women working on an individual basis as well as those working in family groups, in partnership, or as members of cooperatives or other types of legal associations and enterprises involving hundreds or even thousands of miners. For example, it is common for work groups of 4-10 individuals, sometimes in family units, to share tasks at one single point of mineral extraction (e.g. excavating one tunnel). At the organisational level, groups of 30-300 miners are common, extracting jointly one mineral deposit (e.g. working in different tunnels), and sometimes sharing processing facilities."

OECD (2016): OECD Due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. 3. edition. Paris (FR): OECD. ISBN: 978-92-64-25247-9.