Inaugural Capacity Building for the ASM sector in Zimbabwe – Fostering Responsible Lithium Extraction

Recently, the first capacity-building programme for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Zimbabwe, as part of the AfricaMaVal project, has been completed successfully. Within AfricaMaVal, a critical aspect is dedicated to driving Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) enhancements throughout the raw materials value chain. Specific project activities seek to address the considerable ESG challenges inherent in the sector and aim to foster best practices for responsible extraction. As AfricaMaVal consortium partner, the World Resources Forum (WRF) is responsible for organising ASM trainings in different African countries in 2024.

Due to the high relevance of ASM for livelihoods and local development in Africa, a specific attention is being placed on this sector. Building capacity is a crucial step in integrating the sector into formal value chains, which may contribute to AfricaMaVal to fostering responsible business and investment relations between the EU and Africa for the sourcing of Critical Raw Materials (CRM) under ESG conditions. The project activities follow a comprehensive approach. While disseminating identified best practices, local communities are actively involved in the co-generation of knowledge and ideally establish a multiplier effect that extends far beyond the project’s lifespan.

“There is a common and harmful stereotype of ASM as voiceless, powerless victims of large scale mining. While there are of course numerous challenges facing the sector that need to be addressed, artisanal mining provides livelihoods for many people. Investments into building capacity can begin to address these challenges and ultimately transform the sector into responsible miners.”

Empowering ASM to Actively Participate in the Lithium Value Chain

From April 9 to 12, 2024, AfricaMaVal organised and hosted a capacity-building program in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), targeting over 25 artisanal and small-scale miners operating across multiple provinces in Zimbabwe. As AfricaMaVal consortium partners, WRF led the event taking place at the Zimbabwe School of Mines in Bulawayo under the theme ‘Making a Just Transition Inclusive for All: Empowering ASM to Actively Participate in the Lithium Value Chain’.

“The ASM sector often lacks access to technical knowledge, such as information on the deposit geology, surveying and processing techniques or proper waste management. Providing capacity building within a local context for a co-generation of knowledge, can promote adoption of good practices for the sector, including improved environmental operating procedures, and encourage better safety practices.”

Presentations from both international and local experts provided practical insights from the Zimbabwean mining context, highlighting barriers and opportunities for ASMers in the lithium sector. The program concluded with a field visit to a middle-scale lithium mine site, offering participants firsthand exposure to professional mining techniques.

Collaboration, Learning and Empowerment for Sustainable Impact

The activities were marked by a spirit of collaboration, learning, and empowerment. Women miners, in particular, actively engaged in understanding the technicalities of lithium mining, emphasising the importance of gender-inclusive approaches in the sector. Reflecting on her experience, one woman miner stated:

“This training program has equipped me with new skills and, most importantly, a new mindset for my mining operations. The knowledge in geology, national requirements, and safety will be crucial for improving my work. I will also ensure to share these learnings within my local community to disseminate further this valuable knowledge.”

The purpose of the training is to provide participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to actively participate in formal lithium value chains and professionalise their operations for future opportunities to enter international value chains aimed at providing responsibly-sourced lithium.

By placing emphasis on community engagement, knowledge co-creation, and strategic partnerships, the initiative paves the way for a more sustainable and inclusive mining ecosystem. Additional capacity building sessions are planned in different African countries in 2024.