Preliminary study on impact perceptions in Colombia
Natalia González Parias – Alliance for Responsible Mining /gro.s1603328050enime1603328050lbisn1603328050opser1603328050@zela1603328050znoga1603328050ilata1603328050n1603328050
Elizabeth Echavarria – Solidaridad Network Colombia / email@example.com
Given the current pandemic situation caused by COVID-19, the impact, and consequences that it is causing on the artisanal and small-scale mining sector are being analyzed by several organizations and working groups with a global, regional and local scope.
Recently, the OECD Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group of the implementation programme for the Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains, of which The Alliance for Responsible Mining and Solidaridad are members, made a public call for action highlighting the relevance of the sector as a potential development agent, emphasizing on the vulnerability situations that it endures (aggravated due to the pandemic), and strongly suggesting to continue and extend the support toward its development and inclusion in formal markets.
Considering the previously stated, and from a preliminary analysis of the Colombian situation that circulated last April, both organizations have prepared this document seeking to update those observations according to the evolution of the national scenario, and strengthening the analysis with data on field impact perceptions collected from surveys and interviews applied to some groups of miners. We hope that this document may become a starting point for further analysis and the design of evidence-based action plans, that support the sector’s reactivation.
ABOUT THE SURVEY
Between April 17th and 21st, 23 surveys were applied to women from the artisanal mining sector, and 27 to representatives from small-scale mining organizations in the departments of Antioquia, Boyaca, Cauca and Nariño, in order to know how they are being affected by COVID-19 and the measurements taken for its contention. Active beneficiaries from projects being carried out in the country by the Alliance for Responsible Mining participated in the surveys, which were taken by phone.
Although it is admittedly a small sample and, thus, the results of the exercise have a limited explanatory scope, we hope this may be a starting point for more extended studies, and can help make visible some of the impacts that the crisis is having in mining zones.
Excerpts from the main findings, are summarized below. The full analysis in spanish can be accessed through this link
SMALL-SCALE MINING SECTOR
21 gold mining organizations, and 6 from the coal sector in Antioquia, Cauca, Boyaca, and Nariño were surveyed. These organizations employ 902 individuals within their directly associated workforce, 818 men and 84 women.
- All respondents are very or extremely affected. They report total suspension of activities and being unable to transport the previously collected material for trading. They are currently preparing to restart duties after two months of inactivity.
- As a consequence of the above, the sector experiences difficulties keeping payroll payments. 71% declared that they have had to suspend contracts of employees.
- Delays on work schedules were also reported, as well as impossibility of performing maintenance tasks.
- One respondent declared to be worried about potential actions from illegal armed groups that intended to interfere with the restart labors. 3 more claimed to be psychologically affected by the situation.
- The sector projects an increase of between 45 and 60% in costs related to the adoption of safety protocols, purchase of supplies and staff.
- Postponement in legal and tax obligations, support to continue operation and trade, and humanitarian aid are the main options that the sector deems appropriate to help impact mitigation. Access to loans and support on protocols implementation were also mentioned.
- Only a third part of the surveyed population reported having received any kind of aid from the authorities.
- The sector reports moderate and minimum impacts.
- No pauses in operations or contract suspensions were reported. However, delays in schedules had taken place due to reduced work rates and drops in demand, as well as increases in supplies costs.
- Rigorous controls in road checkpoints are generating extended times for cargo transportation to collection points.
- There had been increases in the costs of cleaning and disinfection supplies. It has also been necessary to implement protocols that extend the times of entrance to the operation and start of workdays.
- On the short term, the sector projects an increase of up to 80% in transportation costs, as well as 47% and 40% in hygiene / cleaning, and supplies, respectively.
- The most marked options that the respondents think could help them overcome the crisis are support for protocol implementation and to continue operating and trading.
- None of the respondents claimed to have received any state support.
ARTISANAL GOLD MINING SECTOR
23 female gold selectors from Cauca (sometimes called “Chatarreras”), were surveyed, while also one semi-structured survey/interview was carried out with a representative from Campo Bello town (Sotomayor Municipality), where about 30 people work as artisanal miners in Nariño.
- It is a sector exposed to high vulnerability situations, with high proportion of women who are single heads of their households (50%).
- Serious affectations were reported as consequence of a total cease in labors and interruption of income, as well as increases of up to 40% in the cost of supplies, food, and other basic items.
- Humanitarian aid (groceries), access to protection elements (face masks, gloves, anti-bacterial gel, soap), and provision of agricultural supplies and seeds to complement their income, were the elements that this population deemed priority to help overcome the situation.
- 40% of this population is being included in state aid programs (mainly “Familias en Acción”). However, the availability of in kind provisions (groceries) is minimal, and 60% of these people and their families have not received any help.
WHAT CAN MINING AUTHORITIES, THE PRIVATE AND COOPERATION SECTOR DO TO HELP?
- Provide / guarantee access to humanitarian aid. See, for instance, ARM’s campaign to raise funds to support miners’ families that are struggling to meet their most basic needs in Colombia and Peru: https://www.responsiblemines.org/en/donate-to-artisanal-miners-covid19/
- Support on protocol implementation processes and facilitate access to personal and sanitary protection elements.
- Extend tax and legal obligations deadlines.
- Promote access to loans / financial services.
To impact on the structural challenges of the sector that aggravate the effect of the crisis:
It can be inferred that the severe affectations preliminarily evidenced in the gold mining communities have their origin in the combination of COVID-19 with three structural factors: the little or non-existent savings capacity of the sector, their scarce access to financial services, and the lack of formal mineral buyers in mining municipalities and surrounding cities. In order to have an impact on those barriers, it is recommended to:
- Encourage coexistence relationships between artisanal mining and small, medium and large-scale mining, as well as formal traders.
- Design and kick-start projects that promote complementary economic activities.
- Move further on policy and regulation changes that, with a differential approach, lighten the burden of formalization requirements according to the conditions of the sector.
- Make massive campaigns that aim to the formalization of gold traders in the municipalities with a significant presence of small-scale and artisanal mining.
- Start interinstitutional projects and actions that promote financial inclusion in broad terms in the sector.
- Encourage integration of small and artisanal mining with international supply chains that include favorable conditions for producers (for instance, using codes such as CRAFT to mitigate risks, or certifications such as Fairmined, for higher added value, and Responsible Jewellery Council – RJC, to boost collaboration with other actors of the supply chain and industrial mining).