Blockchain: making artisanal mining more ethical

Tech company Sawa Minerals is putting informally mined metals and minerals from Africa on the Blockchain to make the sector more ethical and transparent.

Mining is the lifeblood of Africa’s collective economy. Without the extraction of gold, platinum, cobalt, coltan and other metals and minerals, the continent would collapse immediately from an economic, human welfare and employment perspective.

Whilst globally, most metals, minerals and gemstones are mined by industrial companies, the role of artisanal and small-scale miners shouldn’t be underestimated. According to a 2018 report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development 40.5 million people globally were directly engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining in 2017, up from 30 million in 2014. To compare: in 2013, only 7 million people worked in industrial mining in 2013.

Most of them operate in Asia (10.6 million) and Africa (9.9 million), where 40 to 50% are women. Of them, 70% to 80% operate informally, making them vulnerable to human rights abuses, civil conflicts, dangerous working conditions and exploitation.

Sawa Minerals intends to change this by putting the continent's small-scale and artisanal mining sector on the blockchain, making the industry more transparent and ethical. This assures buyers the metals and minerals they want to purchase were ethically mined, are free from human rights abuses and don't foster any form of exploitation.

Meaning "fine", "all good" or "no worries" in Swahili, the platform's overarching aim is to make artisans and small-scale miners part of the mining sector's value chain instead of having them on the periphery.

"Artisanal and small-scale mining is an important supplier to key sectors of the global economy including manufacturing, construction, jewellery and electronics. If the world's artisanal mining community would stop working today, the world would suffer a 20% shortage of gold, 20% shortages in diamonds. They deserve to be treated well," said co-founder Kali Angwa Sawa at the platform’s launch in Nairobi last week.

Small-scale miners are applauding the new initiative and feel it will make a difference in their lives. "Like my fellow small-scale miners, I am very happy to see the entry of Sawa," said Joshua Ochieng, a small-scale gold miner from Migori, West of Kenya. "This platform will help alleviate the extreme poverty we live in and eliminate exploitation that is everywhere around our community."

All licensed artisans and small-scale miners, as well as buyers and traders, can sign up and register with Sawa Minerals by visiting https://sawaminerals.com.

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