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April 03, 2020
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Wanted: Supply chain innovators

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$750,000 global competition seeks experts to develop solutions to supply chain problems associated with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) worldwide.

A global coalition of researchers, technology companies, and conservation organizations have joined forces to fund a worldwide competition to improve conditions in the artisanal and small-scale mining industry (ASM)—and supply chain professionals can play a major role.

Launched last October, the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge is seeking applications from innovators who can develop solutions to problems associated with ASM across three areas: supply chain, data collection, and the environment. The goal is to create an environmentally and socially responsible ASM sector, which employs more than 40 million people worldwide but includes practices that are harmful to people and the environment, according to Barbara Martinez, open innovation director at Conservation X Labs, a technology company that is leading the effort.

"Artisanal and small-scale mining is a critical source of livelihood for an estimated 40 [plus] million people worldwide," Martinz explained. "While ASM generates wealth in developing countries, ASM practices can cause habitat loss, species' population decline, poor water quality, hydrological changes, and negative human health and livelihood impacts. Mining is among the most significant drivers of deforestation in the world's tropical forests, a leading cause of global biodiversity loss."

The ASM Grand Challenge seeks applicants interested in developing solutions in all three areas, but supply chain expertise is vital for the Reform Supply Chains Sub-Challenge, which calls for projects that can reduce social and environmental costs of commodities sourced through ASM, downstream from ASM sites. Commodities include minerals and raw materials used in a wide variety of consumer products, including jewelry, electronic devices, and household items. Growing global demand for those items is exacerbating the negative effects of ASM on the environment, the coalition said. Supply chain projects could include efforts that increase transparency along the supply chain, transform the financing mechanisms for ASM, or drive consumer demand and behavior toward responsibly sourced materials.

Winners will receive $750,000 in funding, including support efforts to scale the solutions so they can be adopted worldwide. The challenge includes an additional $100,000 award from Microsoft AI's Earth Initiative for solutions that use or deploy artificial intelligence, including machine learning, in any of the competition's three subcategories, the coalition said.

Applications are due March 1. 

Conservation X Labs is partnering with the following organizations to sponsor the competition: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Microsoft; World Wildlife Fund; Conservation International; Wildlife Conservation Society; Andes Amazon Fund; Amazon Conservation Association; Levin Sources; Pan American Development Foundation; Water, Environment and Human Development Initiative; Mongabay; the Tech Interactive; and Wake Forest University's Center for Amazonian Science and Innovation (CINCIA). 

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