“In the province of Tete, the project brought in changes to the ways the miners work, helped introduce new techniques and supported the cooperative in improving occupational health.” The initiative Amilton Cesar, Formalisation officer for the province of Tete, is referring to is a government project one that is part of the World Bank-funded Mining And Gas Technical Assistance Project (MAGTAP). Its mission: implement a roadmap for the operationalization of the Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) formalization strategy, by testing the approach of formalization in 03 pilot areas and by developing recommendations for a system of extension services.
Improving mining operational practices is only one of many aspects of formalisation the project and the Tete-based Eduardo Mondlane cooperative worked on together. Below, we dive into three targeted approaches that the project and pilot cooperatives developed as part of broader action plans which miners put into practice at each site over eight months.
- In Inhambane: organisational development, market analysis and business management with a clay producing cooperative.
- In Tete: assisting the Eduardo Mondlane gold cooperative in setting up a sustainable water management infrastructure.
- In Zambezia: integrating environmental management into the formalization approach at the Yapa cooperative.
With the project having concluded in October 2022, the goal is now for the Mozambique government to integrate the approach and learnings from this process into their wider formalization strategy for ASM. It’s an important sector to them because it employs between 100,000 and 300,000 people in the country.
Inhambane: seeking sustainability for clay cooperatives by improving market understanding and enterprise management
The Sonho de Indudo cooperative uses the clay it extracts to produce bricks for local and provincial markets. The clay bricks value chain is primarily local and presents significant potential for community socio-economic development. During the project’s kick-off assessment, it became clear that the cooperative needed to improve its management and sales to generate enough revenues to reinvest in operating costs and income for miners and to guarantee the sustainability of clay bricks production.
As a result, organisational and commercial aspects were central to their action plan. From day one, the project and cooperative members collaborated to strengthen the governance, the job description inherent to each role, and the joint decision-making process among members. Strengthening the organisation was a precondition to improve commercialisation and sales.
The work on improving the commercialisation was organised in three stages:
1. Market analysis of clay products
The market analysis, carried out by project specialists and representatives from the government, mapped out market segments and opportunities for clay products, in particular for clay bricks. It focused on the construction sector, including for tourism and public infrastructure.
The analysis involved interviews and meetings with over 20 stakeholders in the province of Inhambane and the city of Maputo. Focused on quality, use and application, the information collected outlined the strengths and weaknesses of clay products, as well as market opportunities and challenges. The analysis also provided information on the technical requirements from clients for clay products.
2. Sharing the outcomes of the market analysis with the cooperative
The market analysis was a practical exercise rather than a comprehensive and theoretical study. Therefore, the next step was to ensure the learnings from it were transferred to the cooperative in an actionable way. To do so, the project organised a session where members received simple printed information with the results of the market analysis. They had an opportunity to ask questions, share their views and start brainstorming ideas and actions that they implemented in the next phase.
3. Facilitate discussions and support development of a business and action plan to improve sales
The last and most important and rewarding stage: seeing how Sonho de Indudu members developed a business and action plan based on the market analysis outcomes. This included reviewing financial and logistical processes as well as the management of the cooperative. This is how the project supported the cooperative for this action:
- Using the market analysis, the cooperative reflected on which market segments to focus on and what was most feasible for them. This activity also resulted in the cooperative wanting to develop its own branding for its products.
- In addition, members decided to include after-sale services in their offer. This means having an expert foreman supporting clients doing construction work with bricks produced by the cooperative. This can increase the value proposed to clients and differentiate them from the many brick producers in the area.
- Finally, the discussions resulted in the development of an overall business plan where they listed actual and potential clients and engagement channels for each of them and a marketing campaign. The plan included a forecast for sales and associated production and operating costs for the coming 18 months. This complemented the work the cooperative started doing to record sales and production costs, giving members the chance to quantify costs and revenues and to improve the financial management of the cooperative and returns for members.
“Since the cooperative started to record production and sales information, the members were surprised, first by the level of monthly income earned jointly, and then by the profit attainable after deducting costs,“ Nelson Candieiro, formalisation officer for the Inhambane province, explained .
The fact the Sonho de indudo cooperative was able to develop their business plan towards the end of the project underlines how the cooperative has strengthened its organisational management.
Tete: developing a sustainable water infrastructure
The ASM gold cooperative of Eduardo Mondlane, in Tete, is located in a dry area where it hardly rains. Collecting the water required for mineral processing involves a 6-kilometres drive to the closest river. When the project selected Eduardo Mondlane as one of four pilot sites, the infrastructure to store the water consisted of two quite small non-hermetic tanks even though the process relies on its constant use. As a consequence, the miners had to go every week to collect water at the river. This process was resource-heavy and unreliable, at the mercy of a truck breaking down, of funds being available to hire a vehicle, and of water levels in the river. Developing better water storage and recycling was identified as a work stream that would really benefit the cooperative’s efficiency.
“The introduction of the water management system was one of the most positive aspects for the cooperative action plan implementation with the Eduardo Mondlane cooperative in Chifunde”, Amilton Cesar, Formalisation officer for the province of Tete, declared as the project concluded.
Addressing the availability and operational cost of getting water were important to get the production flowing and generate sufficient income that would help the miners engage with responsible entrepreneurship. The project aimed to contribute to a processing system that would be both more efficient and reduce the impact on the environment through less water being wasted.
To do so, the team created a storage infrastructure for water, and incorporated a closed water circuit around new gravimetric concentrating methods, where water is used to moisten the ore and help the ore goes down the sluice. Proper water management (availability and continuous flow) can contribute to improved recovery of the gold and efficiency at work.
The project engaged with the miners on the technical aspects of setting up a closed-circuit water storage and recycling system. The technical expert from the project team designed the plan for the water recycling system with two main objectives:
- Ensure the ore processing capacity would not be affected by maintenance needs (e.g. tank getting full),
- Ensure the pumped water for the processing is always clean and not full of sediments.
Based on these two considerations, a two-phase system made of three tanks was set up. After processing the ore,
- The murky water reaches one of two side-by-side sedimentation tanks (when one is full and under maintenance, it goes to the other one),
- The sediments deposit,
- The water gets cleaner while progressing through the tanks,
- The water arrives back to the first storage tank from where the water is pumped to feed the processing of the ore,
Once the dimensions of the tanks were defined based on the processing capacity of the cooperative, the cooperative started digging. The initial tests were conclusive, even though some steps were still missing at the end of the intervention to make the water recycling system fully operational due to the project’s time constrains. Considering it allows for an improved storage of the water and in a significant amount, the miners will save both money and time thanks to this new infrastructure.
Technical parameters and operating costs of the water recycling system
Use of water in processing
External water supply
Volume of stored water
Zambezia: integrating environmental management into the formalization approach
The cooperative of Yapa, in Zambezia, extracts gemstones and industrial minerals in a forested area.
As the project started, miners wanted to increase the production, introduce mechanical tools, and set up a mining camp. All these developments can lead to significant, irreversible impacts onto the environment (deforestation, landscape, river pollution) when they aren’t carried out responsibly.
“The greatest impact of the project was the transfer of useful knowledge for the mining activity. The content was aligned with the real context of the community and gradually improved the administrative, technical and mental capacity of the miners. I believe that this shared knowledge will be transmitted from generation to generation,” Carlos Pahate, formalisation officer in the province of Zambézia, explained. In Mozambique, ASM groups that operate in a Designated Area – which is the aim of Yapa – should comply with basic environmental rules. Therefore, in addition to working with the miners to strengthen their organizational and business capabilities and to improve their technical skills, the project integrated environmental management into the formalization approach. This, through a really comprehensive approach so that the miners can get ownership of the process.
When miners operate informally (in the case of Yapa, the declaration of a Designated Area for artisanal mining is still pending), implementing environmental actions can be burdensome as they can consider it a low-benefit and risky issue because:
- Producing in an environment-friendly manner may require extra efforts, or at least be perceived as such by miners who primarily want to make a decent living from their work;
- Uncovering bad environmental practices may expose miners to increased administrative burden, financial costs and fines.
To overcome these challenges, the project team approached the environmental action plan in a participatory, progressive and comprehensive way.
The team invited government officers, both from the national ASM department and the provincial authority, to take part in the different activities. Several objectives were pursued:
- To increase miners’ awareness of the environmental impacts of mining operations and their obligation to comply with the to-be-defined good practices;
- To identify the main environmental impacts (including their frequency and impact level) and specific and realistic mitigation actions miners could implement;
- To inform sections of the Environmental Management Program to be elaborated by the provincial authority (pilot application based on a new regulation still to be approved).
How the project delivered the practical implementation:
Step 1: An introduction to the environmental approach for the miners delivered at the mining camp, including the basic concepts in relation to environmental management, detailing the four components it relates to (biodiversity of -fauna and flora-, air, rocks, water). The training showed how every human activity generates positive and negative impacts and that the key is to be aware of them and engage in a risk-mitigation strategy (taking basic actions that reduce the negative outputs and maximise the positive ones). This helped the miners gain confidence in the process and prepare them to be more engaged in the next stage.
Step 2: Identify mining-related environmental impacts. To survey the operation and gain an initial idea of the environment and potential impacts, the miners drafted a map of the area where they located the extraction and processing sites, the roads and pathways, the mining infrastructure (camp), the main elements of the environment (including forest, rivers, and residential areas) and other economic activities (crops). This helped identify the nature and locations of potential impacts. Building from here, the project team, miners and government officers, conducted a field visit to estimate the importance of each element making up the environment of the mining operation, and to identify how the latter could affect the first. Back at the mining camp, the group sorted listed possible impacts per component, rating them in a simple manner (frequency*seriousness = total impact).
Step 3: Identify mitigation measures. After this, the participants identified some good practices the miners could implement to mitigate the main risks highlighted in the previous exercise. The miners identified washing the ore in the riverbed as a major impact. Based on their own observation, over time, fish have disappeared and it was sometimes impossible to wash clothes or get water for cooking due to high levels of sediments. To reduce this impact, they committed to improve the mineral selection process so to not carry as much ore to the riverbed, and thus reduce the turbidity of the water. The project suggested washing the ore in a separate processing plant fuelled by the water channelled from the river. A sedimentation tank downstream would ensure that the water that goes back to the river is clean. Following this reflection, the project’s technical expert worked with the miners to outline a system that could suit their needs. The project’s timeframe did not allow for the construction, but the miners are convinced this investment would be useful and promised to work on building it.
Beyond these concrete steps towards identifying an action plan, thanks to a comprehensive and participatory methodology, the miners are now aware of the environmental challenges, own the approach, and are better prepared to integrate all of this into their formalization process. In the own words of Sr Brito, president of the Yapa cooperative: “By using games, questions, maps, the project team raised awareness among cooperative members of the ways the environment is affected and how we can stop causing additional damage, how we can help the environment and avoid the vegetation and the water to be ruined”.
While most of the actions are still to be implemented, the participation of the provincial authority in these activities as well as the delivery of a practical implementation sheet, should facilitate further tailored engagement from the government with the miners to reduce the environmental impacts. Learnings from the Yapa cooperative can then be rolled out to other ASM cooperatives.
The success of this formalisation project across all three cooperatives was largely due to the commitment, interest and ownership of activities demonstrated by the miners. They could see the positive impact their engagement would bring. Their satisfaction and positivity over the outcome, during the surveys carried out by the project team, was a win in itself.
Formalisation is a long-term process, which is one reason that commitment from the miners is so critical. From improved market understanding to the development of a sustainable water infrastructure, every result obtained while the project was running will require continuous effort and support, including from actors like the government of Mozambique, to keep delivering.
Look out for our next article on government engagement and capacity building to find out more about this aspect of the project.