Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) are mining activities which are often informal and characterised by intense labour and the use of unmechanised techniques for extraction. It provides employment for an estimated 45+ million people worldwide, mainly in developing countries, and is often the only source of income for an individual or family.
ASM activity can lack adequate health and safety provisions and can endanger those extracting, often working with hand tools in hazardous conditions. Extraction methods can also create environmental impacts such as the pollution of waterways from insufficient management of chemicals, poor sanitation or dam construction. There is documented evidence of considerable use of child labour within ASM, often when mining for minerals vital to the low carbon transition. Often mined commodities enter the wider supply chain to meet global demand.
Where ASM takes places near commercial mines there can often be conflict between the mine operators and people working in ASM. In some countries efforts are underway to formalise elements of ASM and workers cooperatives have been established.