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There are more than 250,000 ASGM miners in the country—a number that is continually increasing as more people are recruited into gold mining as a main livelihood source. With high population growth in western Kenya and insufficient jobs for youth, ASGM provides critical income to meet miners’ daily living costs. Yet miners often work in dangerous conditions with technologies for micro-scale operations that include the use of toxic substances like mercury. This has considerable impacts on their health and releases hazardous pollution to the environment.

The vast majority of ASGM operations in Kenya are still informal because no legal framework for regulating the sector existed until 2016, and formalization has proceeded slowly since then. This presents an opportunity for the promotion and adoption of alternative technologies that are safe for the environment and the miners, and also profitable when in use by bigger and better organized groupings.

With significant gold reserves that remain underexplored, Kenya’s ASGM industry has the potential to become a driver of socially and environmentally responsible economic development in the western areas. This transformation will require fully formalizing the sector, enabling miners to access and receive training on cleaner mercury-free technologies and, critically, improving miners’ access to finance and investment in the mercury-free technologies.

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