The DELVE Exchange: The Role of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Networks During COVID-19

An estimated 42 million people are employed in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) across the globe. For many of these people, ASM provides the main source of household income, which often exceeds earnings from agriculture, petty trade, and other informal sector jobs. Within developing countries, the COVID-19 crisis poses significant risks for artisanal and small-scale miners and their communities. Economic disruption and surging unemployment, coupled with higher gold prices, could lead to an increase in migration to rural areas as people seek opportunities in the informal mining sector. This has the potential to increase COVID case rates and, more generally, environmental damage and social and economic disruption in ASM communities.

However, recent evidence indicates that ASM networks and associations have been effective in mitigating COVID-related risks, playing a critical role coordinating short-term relief and assistance in mining communities and advocating strongly on behalf of the sector.

The DELVE Exchange project

This World Bank-funded project will facilitate and document the sharing of lessons and best practices among a cohort of ASM Associations in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific on responses to COVID-19. The project will develop an online network of ASM associations termed the Delve Exchange, that utilizes existing digital communication applications. The platform will support peer to peer learning and generate knowledge and solutions that can be adopted by global ASM networks and associations to help their members and communities respond to the challenges posed by the COVID crisis.

Why are ASM networks and associations so important for COVID-response?

ASM national networks and associations play a crucial role supporting ASM across the globe. They advocate on behalf of their members on policy issues, promote improved mining practices in areas such as the environment, health and safety, provide access to knowledge and resources (including finance), and may even provide a social safety net when a crisis occurs.

Data collected by the World Bank and partners in 2020 has highlighted the crucial role ASM associations are playing during the COVID-19 pandemic in providing emergency support to miners in COVID-impacted areas. Examples of interventions include supply of health equipment and sanitation stations, health information campaigns, measures to support people returning to their rural homes, and campaigns to promote best practices in artisanal and small-scale mining.    


This 12-month project is a collaboration between the Sustainable Minerals Institute and partners in six geographical regions across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific who have first-hand experience as miners, ASM Association representatives and / or providers of ASM technical assistance and support. The partners will act as ‘Regional Knowledge Exchange Coordinators’ who work across their regions to identify associations and cooperatives of artisanal and small-scale miners to build a network and help facilitate the sharing of best practices. Our approach is distinguished by the fact that it treats miners and their associations not as the recipients of external support but as the ones who generate knowledge themselves and solutions to challenges across an international network of peers. The other project partners include the Association of Women in Mining in Africa, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Expected Impact

By facilitating learning and peer-support between geographically dispersed ASM associations and communities the project aims to strengthen their resilience during the global pandemic. The knowledge network will also give greater voice to ASM communities and is a necessary precursor to any strengthening of the representation of artisanal and small-scale miners at the international level, which was a priority that was identified for future action by the global consultations conducted as part of the United Nations Environment Assembly Resolution on Mineral Resource governance.

Funding Body

This project is being funded by The World Bank under its Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS) 2 Trust Fund.

Project Members

Professor Daniel Franks
Dr Diana Arbelaez-Ruiz 
Dr Lynda Lawson
Dr Paul Rogers
Robin Evans