Characterize the Problem and Introduce the path to solutions.

Describe the Problem

Artisanal or Small-Scale Mining (ASM) is largely a poverty driven activity, typically practiced in the poorest and most remote rural areas of a country by a largely itinerant, poorly educated populace with little other employment alternatives.  ASM includes 20-30 million people worldwide, with three to five times that number indirectly supported through their activities.  Yet development donors, governments, wider industry players and NGO’s often neglect this sector, focusing on ASM’s negative impacts rather than on addressing its structural challenges to improve the sector’s opportunities for sustainable development.

See Executive Summary from IIED paper.

Path to Potential Solutions

The Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining problem is a classic Messy, Wicked, or Ill-structured problem.

This type of problem is characterized by 1) a high degree of uncertainty about how options are linked to outcomes, and 2) substantial controversy over trade-offs among values. Examples of messy problems include spread of nuclear weapons, regulating the production and use of chemicals, and reforming health care. Addressing such problems often requires a mix of scientific research and engineering practice which, by necessity, must be undertaken in the context of political disagreement’.  I would add ‘social disagreement’ as well.

From Decision Strategies from ‘Addressing Complex, ‘Messy’ Problems’, Metlay and Sarewitz NAE.

The path to solution of Messy Problems involves breaking them up into to smaller, more structured problems with less ambiguity between options and outcomes and less controversies with respect to trade-offs in the context of differing stakeholder values.

This problem-solving process starts with understanding the diversity of mining activities covered under society’s broad definition Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining situations. Figure 1 (below) is extracted from a paper by IIED, 2013.  Understanding the Diversity from IIED paper.

All potential problems can be characterized in the context of Figure 1 supplemented by a an assessment of the AMS community’s relative Vulnerability, Marginalisation and Informality as described in the IIED paper.


Figure 1 - Diversity in poverty driven ASM


FSB’s pilot projects will focus on less-messy problems.  Externally – to build a foundation for demonstrable success as examples for other communities.  Internally – to help develop effective execution strategies as well as to practice problem-solving skills in the complex social, economic and political AMS arena.