Are informal gold miners environment destroyers? Are they involved in this livelihood due to poverty? Are they local poor responding to a rapidly changing global political economy of gold? This project aims to answer these (and other) questions by focusing research attention on three particular informal gold mining communities in Asia. It places informal gold mining within the overall agrarian process of livelihood diversification. The project engages with local stakeholders to help ameliorate the livelihood risks and to improve the livelihoods of informal gold mining communities as well as find ways to protect the environment.

The project has three objectives,
  1. Research,
  2. National Research Capacity-Building, and 
  3. Knowledge Networking within the Asia-Pacific region on informal mining. 
General Background
World Gold Council acknowledges the unprecedented rates at which gold prices have risen in the last ten years. Today, the price of gold is at the extraordinary level of over US$1700 per ounce, and is predicted to rise higher in the coming years (ARM 2011). Consequent to this price upsurge, the global poor have also further extended the burgeoning informal gold economy. A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP 2012) estimate suggests that up to 15 million people in less-developed countries are involved in mining gold through a variety of extraction practices that are collectively designated as ‘Artisanal and Small-scale Mining’ or (ASM). The secondary economy that stems from such gold mining engages around 50 million people worldwide (Telmar 2012). Of the total annual global gold production, about 10 to 15 per cent is informally mined (Spiegel and Veiga 2010).

Clearly, today’s gold rushers in rural Asia are bound to the values of gold, the technologies associated with its processing and, and the authority this commodity brings with it. The increased value of gold and the extension of market forces and infrastructure into (formerly) remote rural areas are creating new mineral frontiers. However, there is a significant lack of knowledge concerning who these people are, in what social, political, and ecological context they are mining gold, and the local and regional economies they are creating in the process. Some of these communities have long extracted gold, processed it and engaged in market trading. However, one cannot simply assume that all these gold miners are repeating historical patterns. There is a pressing need for research, research capacity-building, and knowledge networking.