In Liberia, many miners operate in the grey zone between legal and illegal status, a space where miners, customary authorities, and government officials are engaged in constant negotiation over the governance of artisanal mining activities. Given the high degree of informality and because the Liberian legal framework does not require the registration of individual workers, but only that of the “miner” equivalent to the mine owner, it is difficult to obtain reliable estimates of artisanal miners. A study conducted in 2010 revealed that ASM operations are a major employer in Liberia although official data indicates that mining employs 1.6% of the population (LISGIS 2011, 34). In 2012, Boakye et al. (2012) suggested that between 30,000 and 45,000 people were engaged in ASM in Liberia. A decade ago, other calculations indicated that estimated 50,000 to 100,000 men and women are directly involved in mining activities (MLME 2009 and PRS 2008 cited by Hinton 2010, 1). According to a report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) citing estimates from the Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM), there are 100,000 ASM operators who have near 600,000 dependents (UNECA 2011, 69). Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives’ (LEITI) 2015 scoping study of the mining sector estimates “approximately 100,000 artisanal and small-scale miners and up to 500,000 diggers in Liberia” citing USAID’s Governance Economic and Management Assistance Program as the source (LEITI 2015, 16). High mobility rates in ASM along with participation by foreign nationals makes data collection difficult. As a result, individuals working in the ASM sector are unlikely to be captured in the national censuses.
Read more in the Liberia Country Profile