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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 2225-6253


NEL, W.P.. Limits to artisanal and small-scale mining: evidence from the first kimberlite mines. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2018, vol.118, n.8, pp.845-852. ISSN 2411-9717.

The number of people involved in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has grown quickly to about 40.5 million, compared to 7 million in industrial mining. Furthermore, the ASM sector is contributing significantly to global mineral supply and new opportunities are arising for ASM in an evolving mining ecosystem. Given this growth trend, it is important to ask whether ASM is likely to be successful in the mining of all types of orebodies. The history of early South African diamond mining suggests that the mining of a massive ore deposit by numerous artisanal and small-scale miners is likely to result in poor safety conditions as the depth of mining increases. Early photographs taken at the Kimberley mine showed a very uneven pit floor with leads-lags between the claims. This raises the question of why neighbouring miners did not ensure safer working conditions for each other. Two models described in the paper illustrate why there is likely to be a lack of cooperation and coordination between miners to address this and other safety-related problems. The dynamics of multiple claim holders mining next to one another at increasing depths are analysed, and it is shown that a consolidation of claims into a single firm per kimberlite pipe was required for improved planning, coordination, safety, efficiency, and sustainability.

Keywords : artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM); coordination; mine management and economics; mine safety; rules; Theory of the Firm.

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