Featured Projects

The GIFF Project

The GIFF Project

In 2015, ELL and The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI) came together around a shared urgency to better understand how illicit financial flows act as impediments to the formalisation of Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM), with a focus on gold. The result is The Gold and Illicit Financial Flows Project (The GIFF Project).

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) accounts for 17-20% of world supply and is an important livelihood for tens of millions of people . Much of ASGM production is informal and unregulated, creating a sector vulnerable to criminal influence and IFFs – and resistant to formalisation[2].

The GIFF Project aims to:

  • Raise awareness and understanding of IFFs and criminal networks in gold supply chains;
  • Create a network of stakeholders interested in and working on ASGM formalisation and IFFs in gold supply chains that will share knowledge and strategies; and
  • Provide stakeholders and decision makers (in government, civil society, and the private sector) with tools to identify, map, and address IFFs in their gold supply chains.

In 2016, the GIFF Project will:

  • Develop a toolkit to arm stakeholders with knowledge and tools to better identify and combat IFFs in the gold supply chain that impede formalisation of the sector. It will assess the various forms and functions of IFFs in ASGM, analyse existing legal frameworks related to these flows, and prescribe ways to address and prevent illegal activity in gold supply chains.
  • We are designing regional dialogues and local micro-dialogues to be held, if funding permits, in the Great Lakes Region, West Africa, and/or Latin America to inform the toolkit. We aim to democratise the conversation, bringing together small groups of stakeholders – for example, miners, financiers, government regulators, mine service providers – to better understand the link between IFFs and informality of ASGM sectors on the ground. This is a critical step, enabling stakeholders in gold producing regions to directly provide insights and advice, and potentially to build momentum on the ground to identify and address barriers to ASGM formalisation.

The GIFF Project’s first stage, funded through GIZ, is currently underway:

  • The project was launched at the Miners, Minerals and Minimata Roundtable in December 2015. Presentations by Project Director, Estelle Levin, and Project Manager, Marcena Hunter, were warmly received as attendees drew strong connections to on-going work examining mercury supply chains and financing.
  • A roundtable discussion was held in Washington D.C. in February 2016 to present the project and gather inputs from stakeholders on its priorities and expected outputs. Attendees included representatives from USAID, Department of State, the Enough Project, Global Financial Integrity, Resolve, GEF, and the World Bank, amongst others. For more on the key issues and questions identified by roundtable participants, see the full report here.
  • A multi-stakeholder workshop will be held on the sidelines of the ICGLR-OECD-UN Group of Experts Multi-stakeholder Forum in Paris in May 2016. We would welcome your interest and participation.

To learn more about ASGM, IFFs, and The GIFF Project, you can read our concept note here.

To learn more about ASGM, IFFs, and The GIFF Project, you can read a project description here.

For more information on the project, to request an invitation to the multi-stakeholder workshop, or to be put on our mailing list please contact us at info@nullestellelevin.com.

You can also see our pleanary and conference presentations by clicking the links below:

Roundtable Presentation

Vancouver Conference Presentation

[1] Seccatore J, Veiga M, Origliasso C, Marin T, De Tomi G. (15 October 2014) “An estimation of the artisanal small-scale production of gold in the world”, Science of the Total Environment. Vol. 496. pp. 662–667.

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24867677

Marketplace of Ideas & Mongolia’s Best Practice

ELL Facilitates International Symposium Kicking off Global ASM Knowledge Hub – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia June 2015

Estelle Levin facilitated an international symposium bringing together leaders of knowledge initiatives in the field of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining. Participants scoped opportunities for cooperation and knowledge sharing between them, setting up opportunities to drive greater impact for artisanal miners and their communities around the world.

One technique involved a decentralised marketplace learning approach. Under the bespoke approach, the brainwave of ELL Associate, Gisa Roesen, each participating organisation designed a booth to feature their work. Participants were encouraged to walk through the marketplace and directly engage with the materials. In addition to sparking conversations and facilitating learning in real time, the participants used slips of paper to tag comments, questions, insights, and ideas to each display with a focus on where there might be ‘touch-points’ for cooperation and leverage.

The event took place in Mongolia, which allowed local stakeholders an opportunity to share the best practice examples they have been developing in ASM formalisation. The gathering featured delegates from 18 countries and representatives from 35 different governments, NGOs, international bodies, consulates/embassies, leading ASM projects, research and training institutes, and local ASM communities. The ASM Knowledge Hub International Symposium drew upon the group’s rich experience and expertise to discuss the establishment of the Knowledge Hub. Key topics included:

  • Need for and demand of an ASM Knowledge Hub
  • Functionality and structure of a Knowledge Hub
  • Networking and collaboration opportunities for the Knowledge Hub with other ASM knowledge initiatives and partners
  • Sustainability of the Knowledge Hub

You can find out more about this event and download the workshop report, here: http://www.sam.mn/news_en.php?title=International-Symposium-held-in-Ulaanbaatar-to-discuss-the-establishment-of-Knowledge-Hub-on-Artisanal-and-Small-scale_Mining

Low Cost (‘Frugal’) Methods for ASM Environmental Rehabilitation Study

As part of the Asia Foundation’s programme on Engaging Stakeholders in Environmental Conservation (ESEC II) in Mongolia, ELL is conducting a study on international best practices of frugal and sustainable rehabilitation approaches for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) of gold, coal and fluorspar. ESEC II seeks to mitigate the environmental impacts of historic and current ASM and enhance ASM’s contribution to sustainable local development.

In Mongolia, where gold mining represents 90% of ASM and fluorspar and coal mining the remaining 10%, land degradation from ASM is perceived as one of the most pressing issues faced by communities and miners. Artisanal miners often do not have the resources to achieve the same level of rehabilitation as large-scale mining nor do they have reliable access to technologies that help prevent or reduce chemical contamination. Context specific, economically affordable, socially acceptable, and sustainable rehabilitation approaches are needed to help transform degraded landscapes into productive uses and to foster improved environmental stewardship within ASM operations.

ELL’s case study of international best practices in ASM rehabilitation draws upon examples from arid and semi-arid ecosystems in Africa, Latin America, and Asia that have demonstrated success and are relevant to the Mongolian context. The case study will provide recommendations on improved environmental stewardship at each phase of the ASM life-cycle, from operations to closure and reuse. ELL’s research will also apply ecological restoration planning concepts to post-mining land rehabilitation to encourage scientifically sound and economically and socially desirable rehabilitation projects that result in lasting and productive land uses.
The case study report will provide the basis for ESEC II to facilitate the implementation of frugal environmental rehabilitation by local NGOs.


Photo credit  Cristina Villegas

Situational Analysis and Sustainability Assessment of the Tin Sector in Bangka Belitung, Indonesia

The purpose of The Sustainable Trade Initiative’s (IDH) Indonesian Tin Working Group is to explore if and how its members can positively contribute to addressing the sustainability challenges of tin mining in Bangka and Belitung whilst recognising the economic benefits of the sector in terms of development and poverty reduction.  Group members include Apple, Blackberry, LG, Phillips, Samsung, Sony, EICC, ITRI and Friends of the Earth. 

ELL conducted a situational analysis and sustainability assessment to aid the Group’s understanding of the local situation as a starting point for exploring ways to support sustainable growth through responsible sourcing. We also supported IDH in project managing and convening the group, and presented our findings at an ITRI tin event in Bangka in December 2013.

 The ELL team was composed of local and international experts including mining engineers, environmental, human rights and ASM experts.  Fieldwork was conducted for one month in Jakarta, Bangka and Belitung in September 2013. Throughout the project, the team consulted a range of international experts and over 100 Indonesian stakeholders, including but not limited to government officials at all levels (national, provincial, local), miners (large, small, legal, unconventional, male, female, etc.), collectors (tin buyers), smelters, civil society representatives, tin sector experts, academics, industry association representatives, farmers, shop-keepers, equipment renters and more. The team also visited smelting operations, large-scale mining operators’ concessions,  offshore and onshore small-scale mine sites and abandoned (post mining) sites.  This research culminated into findings and initial conclusions about the commercial, social, economic, political and environmental sustainability of tin mining supply chains in the region and potential pathways towards more sustainable production.

Ell’s work has helped inform the Working Group of the avenues, challenges and potential opportunities for sector engagement within their sphere of influence.  The group is now empowered with enough understanding to start meaningful engagement with Indonesian stakeholders to jointly determine next steps. 

 Clink here for more information on the IDH Tin Working Group



Photo credit: Widi Brotokusumo


A Corporate’s Journey Towards Sustainable Gemstone Sourcing

Partnering with communications & CSR expert Bernadette Larcher, ELL was engaged to support a large corporate client determine an approach to improve sustainability in their gemstone sourcing.  The company wanted to better assure their sourcing and aspires to educate their customers on their sustainable sourcing practices.  ELL was brought in to build transparency into the client’s colored gem supply chains and so identify the gems’ countries of origin in order to help the company better understand the risks and opportunities for their actual supply chains and to create the tools to help support sustainable supply chain management. 

The ELL team assessed the material issues in gemstone mining, trading, and processing.  This assessment informed the design of a supplier questionnaire which was used in Asia and Latin America to interview Tier 1 suppliers to understand their knowledge of the supply chains and risks as well as their desire and ability to comply with sustainability criteria in their sourcing practices.  The information was used to identify engaged suppliers, and understand the gaps in information about the supply chain. It also helped ELL to rank risks in sourcing which has become a powerful management tool.  ELL has since conducted deep dive research on supply chains for specific gems and developed a Code of Conduct specific to gemstone sourcing, but which was later adapted into a general Code of Conduct and Extractives Policy for responsible sourcing across the group. 

This work has helped the company meaningfully engage with its suppliers on the issue of sustainability.  The company also now has tools that can help manage and mitigate risk.  Furthermore, the work has helped raise awareness amongst the organisation senior management and suppliers about the challenges and opportunities on their journey towards sustainability.


Photo credit: Rupert Cook


Digging Deeper: Understanding the Incursions of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in Protected Areas and Critical Ecosystems

ASM-PACE Programme

As part of the ASM-PACE Programme’s mission of engagement, sharing and dialogue around the issue of ASM in Protected Areas and Critical Ecosystems, ELL, in collaboration with WWF, hosted two ASM-PACE Roundtables in Washington D.C. and London.  These events were convened with the intention of sharing the research led by ELL, WWF and FFI in DRC, Gabon, Liberia and Madagascar as well as the results of ASM-PACE’s Global Solutions Study.  The events were designed to garner feedback from interested stakeholders and to solicit interest and direction for the next iteration of the programme.  

The ELL team convened over 50 stakeholders including development experts, conservation organisations, ASM specialists, and representatives from the industrial mining sector. WWF-US and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) hosted the meetings in Washington D.C and London respectively.  Over two years of research into the issue in over 25 countries was sythesised and presented to the audience.  The dialogue facilitated by ELL brought debate, interest and new ideas to the topic.

In conceptualizing and delivering these events and presenting the ASM-PACE research, ELL has established a community of practice and a platform for discussion around the challenges and potential solutions for addressing the issue of ASM in PACE.  Furthermore, ELL has created a call for action and new management strategies for tackling the issue on a local level.  Lastly, ELL created a shared understanding amongst funders, policymakers, conservationists, and those that support ASM communities.      

Clink here for information on ASM-PACE programme.


Photo credit: Rupert Cook