News of Peru’s ‘State of Emergency’ over artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) related pollution in part of the Amazon has received wide-spread public and social-media exposure over the past week. The scale of this pollution is staggering: the impact of ASGM on the environment in the Amazon is scary.
Various commentators have asked me how we can prevent a similar state of emergency in Indonesia, where the environmental and health impacts of ASGM are no less concerning. I’m not sure what the answer is, but we can and must find one, and to do so, we must coordinate global efforts that seek to address the inherent problems of ASGM. The Canadian government is sponsoring a major programme being run by the Indonesian NGO YTS and the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC). UBC’s NBK Institute of Mining Engineering is doing great work in the area, and the Indonesian government agency BPPT is pushing ahead with INCAM, the Indonesian Centre for Artisanal Miners (based on a global UBC training centre model). CIRDI, the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute, is watching this part of the world with interest and concern, while the US Department of State is funding some development and mitigation programmes with miners in APEC countries. However, there is very little coordination and sharing of experiences between groups. Competition for small pots of money is a fact
of life for development practitioners in the ASGM space. AGC and UBC, despite both being based in BC, Canada, don’t talk to each other. Globally, we have the people and technology to make a tremendous difference to the problem in Indonesia, but we don’t seem to be winning. The complex nature of decision-making and communication between ministries of the Indonesian Government doesn’t help.
The Meech Group was established in direct response to some of these problems. The Meech Group is a collection of world-leading experts who have a common desire to make a difference to mining communities. We are not tied to a single organisation; instead, we are a collection of individuals.
The Meech Group is not looking for funding, but for projects where we can achieve positive results. This makes us different to traditional development consultants or service providers. The Meech Group has come a long-way since its formal inception in January of this year and stands ready to support government, non-government and private sector initiatives to solve the problems of ASGM. We are now reaching out to potential partners to better define how we may support their objectives. The Meech Group can immediately begin work to create mechanisms for environmental protection, public safety, alternative livelihoods, entrepreneurship, agricultural development, and resilient communities.