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Written by: Jairo Cárdenas – Manager of Sustainability at ARM.

Climate change represents one of the most urgent challenges that humanity faces. With the increasingly clear scientific evidence about the rise in global temperatures and extreme climate events each time more frequent, the urgency to take effective measures becomes pressing. It requires coordinated and ambitious global actions that transcend sectors and involve governments, businesses, and citizens.

The Impact of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), such as Carbon Dioxide (Co2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N20) are identified as the principal causes of global warming. The Global Carbon Budget report (Team, 2023) estimated a projection of 36,800 Million tons of CO2 emitted into the environment by 2023, demonstrating a 1.1% increase compared to the year 2022. This is a concerningly high figure, as it evidences the minimal impact our previous actions have had on reducing GHG emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Mining and Environment

The relationship between mining and climate change is complex and multifaceted. The mining industry extracts minerals and metals required for the fabrication of “green” inputs and technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicle batteries, which can contribute to reducing GHG emissions into the atmosphere.

Paradoxically, mining activities generate significant impacts on the environment through various pathways, especially in informal and unregulated operations. The most significant of these impacts are related to GHG emissions during mining operations and mineral processing.

Additionally, impacts such as deforestation, use of chemical substances, water source pollution, and soil degradation are common effects of mining activities that contribute to climate change and biodiversity loss. 

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Currently, large and medium-scale formal mining companies have increased measures to reduce the impacts generated by their operations. Internal and external control tools such as standards, international regulations, sectoral goals, transparency practices, and robust governance have strengthened the sector’s good practices.

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Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), plays a significant role in the global economy and the livelihood of communities worldwide.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), it is estimated that ASM directly employs over 40 million people in more than 80 countries, representing a considerable proportion of the global mining workforce.

ASM contributes significantly to national incomes and economic development in many developing countries, making it a key sector for poverty reduction and social inclusion promotion.

Measurement of Carbon Footprint in ASM (Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining)

Due to its characteristics of high labor intensity and low mechanization, the environmental impacts generated by the ASM must be reviewed differently from large-scale mining. The identification and characterization of specific ASM practices allow for the establishment of tailored action plans for this sector. The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) has designed a tool to measure carbon footprint adjusted to ASM, based on the GHG Protocol methodology, enabling the measurement of ASM’s carbon footprint across the three scopes proposed by this protocol. 

% of CO2eq Emitted by OMAPE in One Year

Illustration 1. Percentage of CO2 emissions in 5 ASMs according to each scope

Source: Own elaboration.

This tool allows to assess in which part of the process in the ASM the largest quantity of CO2 emissions occur, and prioritize improvement actions to reduce the carbon footprint.  The scopes correspond to:

The carbon footprint measurement tool in ASM quantifies the amount of CO2 equivalent emitted by a mining organization over a year of work for the production of a certain amount of mineral. For the purposes of illustration 2, it is observed that it corresponds to gold mining. This tool also helps understand the amount of CO2 equivalent emitted to produce one kilogram of gold, in different mining operations, with different techniques, in different deposits, and with different equipment.

Tonnes of CO2eq per Kilogram of Gold.

Illustration 2. Amount of CO2 emitted to produce 1 kilogram of gold, in 5 ASM operations.

Source: Own elaboration.

Currently, the information obtained from measuring the carbon footprint in ASM allows for specific actions focused on:

Adopting technologies and practices that reduce energy consumption in mining operations, such as implementing more efficient equipment, optimizing processes, and using renewable energy sources like solar or wind power when possible.

Implementing solid and liquid waste management systems to minimize soil and water pollution. Promoting the reuse, recycling, and proper disposal of waste generated during mining operations.

Developing and implementing environmental restoration plans that include re-vegetation of areas affected by mining, rehabilitation of degraded soils, and recovery of natural ecosystems.

Involving local communities in decision-making and mining activity planning, fostering transparency, dialogue, and respect for community rights.

Reduce the use of pollutants to protect human health and biodiversity and mitigate climate change.

Prioritize conservation and sustainable management of resources. This involves establishing protected areas, promoting sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, and fostering the circular economy.

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ARM's Commitment to Responsibility in ASM

Non-compliance with these actions can have devastating consequences for human health, biodiversity, food security, and the economic well-being of communities.

That’s why ARM is committed to responsible practices that help mitigate climate change and respect the human rights of miners, communities, and territories where these operations take place. Among our actions is the design of instruments, inputs, and strategies that promote responsible ASM. The carbon footprint measurement tool adapted to ASM complements other actions such as the development of the FAIRMINED standard, promotion of formalization, technical assistance, and strengthening of traceability processes and markets.

  • datosmacro. (2021). CO2 emissions – 2021. Retrieved on March 3, 2024, from
  • team, G. C. (December 4, 2023). Retrieved on March 3, 2024, from Global Carbon Budget:
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2019). Global Report on Child Labour. Retrieved from:–en/index.htm
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2018). Human Development Report 2018. Retrieved from:


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