Posted 27th November 2009 by Kevin Telmer
60 Minutes will do a piece on Artisanal and Small Scale Mining – mainly focusing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Lets hope that 60 minutes does not just follow suit with the last 30 years of demonizing poor miners. Gold mining is an excellent mechanism to transfer wealth from rich countries to poor – a superb development opportunity, and the same one that developed a lot of the US and Canada. A big problem is that governments (often fed by media hysteria) do not provide any appropriate services or legal systems for poor miners to capitalize on the wealth they generate – so the wealth leaves the communities where it is created. There are 10 million people doing informal or “extra-legal” gold mining in 70 countries. They often develop sophisticated socio-economic systems that include education, healthcare, and security. Remarkably, they usually do this in isolation and with zero help from governments. They make about 4 times more money than the alternative – rural agrarian jobs. Their overall environmental footprint is in many ways smaller than large legal mining companies. I hope 60 minutes shows these positive aspects and has some strong suggestions about solutions and does not just condemn the world’s poor. Yes the gold mining and jewelry industry need to much more strongly participate in creating solutions – they need to be part of the solution. No, the DRC is not representative of the issue – it is a complicated worst case scenario. Please show some positive cases (Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana, Peru, Mozambique, Ecuador, Mongolia…). Overall, this whole story needs to be inverted through education of the world’s governments, industries, and consumers in order to help the poor continue to help themselves. I implore 60 minutes to use its resources for positive change and take up this role. Kevin Telmer, Director, Artisanal Gold Council.