Assessing the economics and finances of Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Guyana

Tim Laing, Rene Edwards, Shereeda Yusuf, Colin Sparman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is a vital source of non-farm rural income across much of the Global South, and a key provider of jobs and livelihoods in South America, Africa and Asia. Despite this importance, however, there is very little research into the economics and finances of these small (and often medium-sized) operations. This paper summarises the result of a survey of ASM gold miners in Guyana in late 2020 that delved into the costs, revenues, financing and profitability of a range of small and medium-size miners in the country, for which the industry is a vital source of foreign exchange, economic growth and employment. The results from the survey highlight a potentially lucrative sector with some operators making large profits. However average figures mask a long-tailed distribution with many miners operating at the margins of profitability or a loss. These challenges are amplified by the large capital costs associated with operating in the sector, which are compounded by the difficulties miners face accessing capital markets. Beyond the headline figures, the survey highlights the potential attractiveness of the sector in terms of wages, and also the very small share of costs relating to the use of mercury – highlighting the challenge of utilising economic policy to reduce and eliminate the use of the chemical. The results demonstrate the need to collect more economic and financial data on the sector in order to best understand how to drive change in the sector, helping to mitigate its negative social and environmental impacts, whilst maximising the economic benefits it can bring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-448
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank all the miners who participated in this study; the data collection team, Sarina Kawall, Cladia Van Sluytman, Nicole Bowen, Nkasse Evans and Leiann van Lange; those who helped to facilitate the interviews with miners including the GGDMA; and CI-Guyana and WWF-Guianas for institutional support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Small-scale mining
  • Costs
  • Economics
  • Profitability


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the economics and finances of Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Guyana'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this