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Volume 692: debated on Thursday 24 May 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are involved in work to promote health and safety for those employed or self-employed in small-scale mining enterprises in Africa and South America; and, if so, what progress has been achieved recently. [HL3762]

We recognise that health and safety standards are often poor or non-existent in the artisan and small-scale mining (ASM) sector. The Department for International Development has directly and indirectly supported a number of initiatives to promote health, safety and the environment (HSE) in the sector.

DfID supports the World Bank-hosted communities and small-scale mining (CASM) initiative. This includes promoting the health and safety of those employed in small-scale mining. For example, CASM has supported training on good mining and processing practices including health and safety in Ghana, Tanzania, Mali, and Zambia.

CASM is also supporting the work of several agencies investigating the feasibility of certification schemes, for gold and other metal and mineral resources, that amongst other things, aims to give recognition for the adoption of HSE standards by ASM associations.

DfID has directly supported work with ASM communities in Ghana and Tanzania. This included HSE to communicate aspects of occupational and community health and safety directly to ASM communities in their own languages.

Together with the United Nations environment programme, the International Council on Mining and Metals and the UN Commission on Trade and Development, DfID supports a website that selects and communicates good practice in mining, including HSE standards.

DfID has been involved with the Global Mercury Project (GMP), which is co-ordinated by the United Nations International Development Organisation (UNIDO). Since 2002 this has demonstrated ways to reduce the use of mercury in gold processing in six countries including Brazil, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. This project has introduced environmental and health assessments, alternative gold-processing technologies, training and capacity-building in government and mining communities, and has reduced the hazards posed by mercury use.

The EU mercury abatement project, initiated in Ghana in 2005, has developed a new direct smelting method (with no mercury), which has significantly reduced the use of mercury in some ASM areas and is now being demonstrated throughout Ghana.