Formalizing artisanal and small-scale mining in Mozambique: Concerns, priorities and challenges

Gavin Hilson, Salvador Mondale, Abigail Hilson, Alex Arnall, Tim Laing

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper reflects critically on efforts made to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing – in Mozambique. Drawing on findings from interviews with policymakers, representatives from ASM associations and 200 individual miners, the paper captures the details of the country's ASM formalization experience. Findings reveal that despite showing considerable promise at first, the drive to formalize ASM in Mozambique, which spans three decades, has lost considerable momentum. A bureaucratic licensing scheme, overlapping responsibilities at the Estatuto Orgânico do Ministério dos Recursos Minerais e Energia (MIREME), and a shortage of information about miners have contributed to this slowdown. The themes underpinning the efforts to formalize ASM in Mozambique are not new but the case itself has its own unique nuances and storylines.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102001
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalResources Policy
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    In 2000, officials at Mozambique's now-defunct Directorate of Mines (DNM), with support from the World Bank, conducted a national baseline of ASM activities (Kazilimani et al., 2003). The purpose of the baseline was to map the organizational structures (production, processing and marketing) of ASM, to identify constraints and problems affecting the sector's development, to assess its impacts on livelihoods, and to identify ways in which to better regulate and manage operations. The study was conducted in four provinces, each of which contains high concentrations of artisanal gold and gemstone mining activities: Manica, Tete, Niassa and Nampula. Across sub-Saharan Africa at this time, momentum was steadily building to formalize ASM, largely because of the unfavourable spotlight it was receiving over its environmental impacts and interface with large-scale mining activities. On the latter point, several countries in the region had, in the 1990s and early-2000s, implemented major mining sector technical assistance projects supported by the World Bank (Table 2). Goals linked to formalizing and supporting ASM were enshrined in each project but mostly took a back seat to work aimed at attracting foreign investment to develop large-scale mineral exploration and mining facilities.Research was conducted in Mozambique to strengthen the case for developing a viable strategy for formalizing and supporting the country's ASM sector. As indicated, the dynamics of ASM in Mozambique have been heavily-overlooked in the literature. Only Mondlane and Shoko (2003), Dondeyne et al. (2009), and Dondeyne and Ndunguru (2014) have broached the subject in writing. Initially, it was planned that a team of four researchers would visit Mozambique, with a view to broadening understanding of the institutional and policy machinery in place for ASM in the country. Arrangements were made, via email, with key government officials based in the country capital of Maputo; each was briefed about the research, and interviews were arranged. Representatives from all government bodies with a stake in regulating and/or administering policy to ASM were identified prior to being approached (Table 3). Before conducting the research, however, the opportunity arose to visit Manica Province, to interview miners and representatives from ASM cooperatives. Visiting Manica, arguably the most important small-scale gold mining section of Mozambique, was quickly identified as a priority; plans were hatched to include it in the research.In Mozambique, the case for formalizing ASM with a view to showcasing it more in national development strategies is little different than anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa but it has its own distinctive flavour and a unique story worth sharing. Drawing heavily on findings from the research, this section of the paper builds the case for intensifying efforts to formalize and support ASM in Mozambique.Under Subcomponent A3 of the Mozambique Mining and Gas Technical Assistance Project, 2014, US$3 million was allocated by the World Bank to support ASM, presumably in a bid to help address the void in sectoral support. Officials appeared to recognize the scale of the challenge that lay ahead:Funding for this research was provided by the International Growth Centre, under the grant Formalizing Small-Scale Mining in Rural Mozambique: Issues, Challenges and Ways Forward (MOZ-19016). The authors would like to thank all of the interviewees for taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in the research. The authors would also like to thank the editor of Resources Policy, an anonymous reviewer, Dr Claudio Frischtak and the International Growth Centre Mozambique staff for comments on previous drafts of this paper. Needless to say, any errors this paper may contain are the sole responsibility of the authors.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 Elsevier Ltd

    Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM)
    • Formalization
    • Mozambique
    • Sub-Saharan Africa


    Dive into the research topics of 'Formalizing artisanal and small-scale mining in Mozambique: Concerns, priorities and challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this