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Policies and regulations for Brazil’s artisanal gold mining sector: analysis and recommendations

Sousa, Rodolfo, Veiga, Marcello, Van Zyl, Dirk, Telmer, Kevin, Spiegel, Sam, Selder, Jeff
Journal of cleaner production 2011 v.19 no.6-7 pp. 742-750
educational status, gold, governmental programs and projects, human resources, issues and policy, mining, people, politics, socioeconomics, traditional technology, watersheds, Amazonia, Brazil
In Brazil, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) produces in the range of 6 tonnes of gold (Au) per annum, and employs approximately 200,000 people. Most of this mining activity is in the Amazon region, where miners have been extracting gold for more than 40 years. In the Tapajos River Basin, assessments indicate that around 99% of miners operate without the environmental and mining permits required by law. This is a result of a combination of unrealistic or lack of proper policies and regulations, lack of political will, lack of infra-structure to enforce the existing regulations and lack of incentives to miners to comply with legal requirements. In this article, we analyze a group of 20 laws, decrees and resolutions in Brazil, focusing on how idiosyncrasies in these regulations reveal gaps between policy and reality in ASGM areas. Artisanal miners operate in vast and remote areas and the government lacks the resources (personnel, vehicles, information and materials) to enforce the laws. Our analysis emphasizes the need for creating new government commitments and identifying priority areas where government agents can focus their efforts. There is no single solution for the environmental, health, technical and socio-economic problems associated with ASGM. However, a realistic approach should consider improving the level of education of miners, creating government programs to provide technical assistance in the field, simplifying administrative procedures and ensuring adequate measures for enforcement.