Capability of Social Life Cycle Assessment for Representing the Artisanal Small-Scale Mining Sector of Gold in the Amazonian Rainforest of Brazil

by Sally K. Springer (presenting author)1, Bernhard Peregovich2, Mario Schmidt1

1: Institute for Industrial Ecology, Pforzheim University, Germany; 2: Federal University of Western Pará, Santarém, Brazil


Gold has a variety of applications like no other resource – used as capital investment, monetary reserves in banks, as jewelry or integrated in technologies. But its attention is also high in regards to ecological threats, social circumstances and economic aspects. Artisanal small-scale mining (ASM) is an important sector, as it serves as a source of livelihood for many people. About 20% of the gold comes from this branch. One characteristic of ASM is its often informal and illegal structure, which is likely to hamper improvements for sustainable development. During field trips to the Tapajós Region in the Amazonian Rainforest of Brazil, primary data was collected by observations and narrative interviews. The complexity of the sector, in regards to social aspects, has been outlined in complex relations and interrelations.

Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) estimates positive and negative social and socio-economic aspects along the life cycle of a product or service. A standardized approach to follow does not exist up to now and methodological approaches and applications are still in the development phase, because compared to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the research field is rather young.

The present study answers the question, whether SLCA is capable of reflecting the complex relations and interrelations of ASM of gold in Brazil, which could help understanding the sector to be able to generate a basis for improvement. Several sources of guidelines and databases, e.g. the UNEP/SETAC Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment and the Social Hotspot Database are used to answer the question.