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Artisanal and small-scale mining

Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Training: An interview with John Tychsen

March 14, 2018
Blog written by Stacy Corneau, Media and Communications Officer

PanAfGeo launched an initiative supporting the training of geoscientific staff from African Geological Surveys through the creation of an innovative training program. The training program includes the acquisition and development of crucial professional skills to complement qualifications and technical skills. World-class geoscientific experts from African and European geological surveys carry out the training programs.

We interviewed John Tychsen, leader of PanAfGeo’s Work Package 3: Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, to learn more about their training and efforts to improve artisanal and small-scale mining across Africa. 

What is the objective of PanAfGeo?

The overall objective of PanAfGeo is to improve the management and sustainable use of African mineral resources and related infrastructures. The specific objective is to strengthen the knowledge and skills of Africa’s mining sector and specifically of African geological surveys. This will allow them to contribute their expertise and data to shape informed decision-making and good governance as well as sustainable use of mineral resources. In addition, PanAfGeo helps reinforce the capacity of the Organization of African Geological Surveys (OAGS).

Why is PanAfGeo working in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)?

ASM is a complex and diversified sector across much of the developing world. Global estimates suggest about 100 million individuals, including people who work in the sector and their families, depend on ASM. This can include informal individual miners seeking a subsistence livelihood to small-scale formal commercial mining entities producing minerals in a responsible way.

Because the ASM sector is now recognized in national legislation in nearly all African countries, the sector will be integral in the national economy moving forward. For this reason, it’s crucial that a number of issues be addressed, including environmental, health and safety.

It’s for these reasons PanAfGeo aims to support ASM operators to improve the outcome of their activities while providing a platform for regulatory agencies and post-secondary institutions involved in the sector to discuss how to manage and assist artisanal and small-scale miners. This is done through PanAfGeo’s Work Package 3 on ASM, consisting of seven workshops between 2017 and 2019, which aims to facilitate the development of national strategies for ASM in regions where workshops are conducted and strengthen the workshop’s trainers’ capacity to assist ASM operators.

What training workshops have already been completed?

The first of seven workshops was held in Ghana from September 18 to 21, 2017. The main aim of the workshop was to train staff from the Ghana Geological Survey Authority (GGSA), regulatory agencies and the universities involved in the ASM sector to strengthen their capacity to assist ASM operators in Ghana while providing regional perspectives. Particular emphasis was on how the knowledge and skills resources of the GGSA can be mobilized more actively in the service of ASM operators so as to ensure more profitable, efficient, environmentally friendly, safe and sustainable mining operations in Ghana.

Why is PanAfGeo working in Ghana?

Ghana’s mining laws changed in 1989, legalizing ASM with the aim of providing employment for local communities and increasing government revenue. In 1989, small-scale production accounted for approximately two per cent of gold and 40 per cent of diamond production in the region. This number increased rapidly and, by 2016, ASM was responsible for 31 per cent of gold and nearly 100 per cent of diamond production in Ghana. However, without support and policies, the ASM sector had negative environmental impacts, including the degradation of farmlands, encroachment of forest reserves and polluting bodies of water. Currently, ASM operations employ over one million people in Ghana and provide a livelihood to approximately six million.

PanAfGeo chose to deliver training in Ghana in efforts to help legal ASM operators mine more efficiently and knowledgeably by way of knowledge transfer and on-site guidance. Because PanAfGeo focuses on training the trainers, the team stood a better chance of assisting miners to optimize their operations in accordance with state-of-the-art methods, thus helping to bring the mining sector onto a less damaging track.

Work Package 3: Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining will deliver training sessions in Zambia and Malawi in 2018 and in Kenya and French Western Africa in 2019. Please stay tuned for updates.

Dr. John Tychsen is the Lead of Work Package 3: Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining. Dr. Tychsen has a MSc in geology and a PhD in applied geophysics from the University of Copenhagen. He has worked in management positions in the Danish government, UNEP in Kenya and Danida in Bolivia. He has more than 15 years experience in the ASM sector from projects funded by World Bank, the EU and bilateral donors in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Learn more about PanAfGeo at