With an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 people working in it, the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector in Mozambique is responsible for a significant portion of the country’s mining output, especially for minerals like gold.

However, the miners who are the backbone of the ASM sector have been struggling to make the most out of the minerals and metals they extract. To address these challenges, in 2017, the Mozambique government developed a roadmap for the ASM sector, including working with cooperatives towards formalisation by addressing challenges beyond the legalisation process.

Formalisation also means implementing good mining practices (production, health and safety, environmental impact) and improving the economic sustainability of cooperatives to ensure their long-term prospects.

“Initially, we didn’t know how to share benefits or to calculate profits or operational costs. Our focus was on the extraction and on sales,” explained José Daniel Vilanculo, Vice secretary and Communication Officer of the Sonhos de Indudo cooperative (Inhambane) that extracts and processes clay. “Since working with the project, we’ve started to take all these criteria into account, subtracting from the profit the expenses that relate to brick making.”

In 2021, as part of the World Bank-funded Mining And Gas Technical Assistance Project (MAGTAP) programme, a government project started to implement part of this roadmap, with a focus on formalising ASM pilot areas and developing a system for extension services. These are services or systems targeted at a designated group and/or economic sector to support its improvement across issues such as standards of living, production, methods and techniques, etc.

Education is another example of extension services beneficial to cooperatives, especially “the education around being part of a cooperative. Today, any member of Yapa can explain what a cooperative is, how it emerges, how it gets organized based on the statutes, rules. Thanks to the training, attitude around belonging to a cooperative evolved a lot. Every member now feels ownership,” said Artur Brito, President of the Yapa Cooperative.

The project is implemented by a joint venture consisting of Levin Sources and the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), in partnership with Genesis Lda. 

Selected for their technical expertise in mining governance and in ASM formalisation across Africa, the project team is supporting formalisation and good practices at four cooperative sites and developing tools that can be used beyond the selected pilot areas.

The project objectives are:

  • Support the formalisation process and implementation of good mining practices in three pilot areas through the adapted support of four ASM cooperatives.

  • Assist with ongoing capacity building of government officials through their involvement in the implementation of extension services delivered by the project team.

  • Develop recommendations for extension services systems following the project implementation

The project has been working with four cooperatives, including Sonhos de Indudo and Yapa, selected following government guidance and a best-practice assessment. Criteria included cooperative organisation and governance, production information and dynamics, health and safety and ASM legitimacy.

The sites cover the metals and minerals most extracted in Mozambique.  They are:

  • In Tete: a gold cooperative/SME
  • In Zambezia: a cooperative mining gemstones including tourmaline, beryl, and industrial minerals like tantalite
  • In Inhambane: two cooperatives extracting clay which is then processed for construction materials and other purposes (like pottery and kitchen stoves)

Working with the cooperatives on ASM formalisation: a participatory approach

The project kicked off with sites and mining area assessments.  Following multi-stakeholder discussions with the government, provincial services and cooperative members, the project team drafted action plans for each cooperative focused on most critical issues to support the formalisation process. Crucially, the cooperatives were integral to the finalisation of each action plan.

This participatory approach has been key to the project’s success to date. “I liked how project experts incorporated the reality of the miners in the field, teaching the cooperative members face to face during open discussions. If one of our members had some query, then he could directly speak to these people, and most of the topics were solved,” Brito said.

Activities undertaken according to the plans include:

  • Organisational and governance support. This includes the revision of the cooperative statutes, ensuring all members are aware of and agree with their content, and better definition of the internal governance of the cooperative by clarifying its main structures and roles.
  • Legal and licensing support, including the official publication of cooperative documents and definition of the ASM-designated area for the approval of the Ministry. For instance, through its work with the project, the Sonhos de Indudo cooperative was able to “officially register by publishing its Statutes in the Official Bulletin of the Republic of Mozambique. We always wanted to do it as it was our Achilles heel,” explains Vilanculo.
  • Creation and training of Health, Hygiene and Safety at work committees. Miners were trained on risk and hazard identification and mitigation measures.
  • Technical training and capacity building on improved mineral processing techniques and development of infrastructure at the mine sites.
  • Introduction to environmental impact assessment and management, and testing of alternatives to mercury use for gold extraction.
  • Market analysis and marketing plan for clay products with Vilanculo declaring that “thanks to the project, our work is known at national and international scale”.

Throughout, the partners have been following an approach which gives miners maximum ownership of the process. For instance, in June 2022, partners ran a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) session at the cooperative in Zambezia during which miners shared their level of satisfaction and the activities they liked and didn’t like.

Overall, participants said they were happy with project interventions, the learning they gained from implementation techniques and how it improved the cooperative. “I appreciate the vision the project brought, including training, because they helped us approach our work from a technical rather than archaic point of view,” Vilanculo explained.

The main challenge to date is the delay in the approval process for the ASM designated area where miners are operating, which is a requirement for all artisanal miners to be able to extract minerals and metals.

Ongoing capacity building with government officials: setting the ground for the implementation of extension services

Government representatives have been involved since the first action, including in the initial assessments, validating action plans for the cooperatives and supporting the implementation of the activities and services described above.

Members of the ASM department at the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MIREME) and representatives from the provincial mining services joined several technical missions. They took ownership for sharing learnings with the members of their teams through presentations on each activity implemented at the mine sites.

In addition, all the actions with the cooperatives are documented by the project team into “operation sheets”, which are simple guides summarising the processes and methods to replicate similar activities in other mining areas.

In July 2022, the consortium organised a “train the trainers” for about 30 representatives from MIREME, across different functions and locations. The material covered included Occupational Health and Safety, gravimetric processing (to capture gold), equipment maintenance and soft blasting for gemstones extraction. The session targeted those government officials responsible for the support and development of the ASM sector, who will oversee the delivery of extension services.

Next steps

The project has now entered its final phase, as it will be wrapping up in October 2022. The partners are completing the last workstream and assessing, through discussions with the local stakeholders, the progress made at the cooperative sites.

The partners will organise a workshop with the government in September to run them through recommendations for extension services systems beyond the life of the project. It will be supplemented by an end-of-project report which will include recommendations to consolidate on learnings that can be implemented.

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