Competition: The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge

Conservation X Labs welcomes you to enter the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge, a competition aimed at finding new and innovative solutions to the environmental problems caused by mining operations. This competition offers $750,000 in prizes, including the $100,000 Microsoft Artisanal Mining AI For Earth Award for innovations incorporating AI and machine learning. 

Date published: 2020/02/26

The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge

A global competition with $750,000 in prizes for innovative solutions.

Applications due March 1, 2020 by 11:59 PM (EST) . Apply at this link.

Full competion details, including the application and Innovator's Handbook guide, can be found at the competition website.

What is artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)?

While defined differently across countries, ASM generally refers to mining operations with predominantly simplified forms of exploration, extraction, processing, and transportation. These operations are often labor intensive, low-tech, receive limited investment, and require less expertise than medium and large-scale mining operations. ASM operations can be formal or informal, legal or illegal.  

How will you innovate?

The following three categories consist of the sub-categories that competitors may enter:

1. Prevent, Remediate, Restore Sub-Challenge:

ASM on-site solutions. The Prevent, Remediate, Restore Sub-Challenge seeks breakthrough innovations that are implemented at ASM sites to prevent, remediate, or restore impacts from ASM to water, hydrology, land, biodiversity, human health, and/or ecosystems.

The environmental and health impacts of ASM activities differ by commodity and location. ASM operations tend to use the most accessible (i.e. inexpensive, readily available, traditional) methods to mine materials. These methods are not always environmentally responsible, healthy, safe, cost-effective, or efficient. This Sub-Challenge seeks solutions that prevent anthropogenic sources of toxic contaminants such as mercury and other heavy metals from entering the environment, remediate or restore the land, reduce changes to hydrological functions and water quality, reduce habitat loss for terrestrial and aquatic species in core biodiversity regions such as dry and wet tropical forests in the Amazon, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, and reduce negative human health impacts and other social costs.

Learn more about opportunities for innovation related to this sub-challenge in this webinar recording.

2. Reform Supply Chains Sub-Challenge:

Solutions downstream from ASM sites. The Reform Supply Chains Sub-Challenge seeks innovations that significantly reduce the social and environmental costs of commodities sourced through ASM, downstream from the ASM sites.

ASM materials are common in our devices, jewelry, and many other everyday products. Demand for these materials is predicted to continue to grow substantially. Innovations in this Sub-Challenge may be applied at any point along the ASM supply chain. For example, they may increase transparency along the supply chain, transform the financing mechanisms for ASM, or drive consumer demand and behavior toward responsibly sourced materials. Innovations should demonstrate measurable, attributable impact on reducing or eliminating harm to water resources, soil, biodiversity, and/or human health and well-being.

3. The Global Data Sub-Challenge:

Information solutions on-site and downstream from ASM sites. The Global Data Sub-Challenge seeks solutions that measure the environmental and social impacts of ASM and equip people with tools to improve the environmental and social outcomes of ASM practices.

This Sub-Challenge seeks solutions to improve the process of collecting and communicating data regarding who, what, where and how different commodities are being mined along the supply chain. Solutions should drive ASM toward being a more environmentally and socially responsible industry and focus on at least one of the following: decreasing the cost of data collection, increasing the ease of data collection, enhancing the accessibility of data, and/or improving the actionability of the data. In all cases, the data must be directly relevant to improvements in ASM practices and/or impacts.

You can learn about some of the data gaps and opportunities related to ASM in this webinar recording.

The Microsoft Artisanal Mining AI For Earth Award: $100,000

Solutions that utilize or deploy artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning, to address ASM in any of the Sub-Challenge categories may be eligible to receive the Microsoft AI for Earth Award. To be eligible, solutions must have access to a labeled dataset, identify a user-base, and have an implementation plan.

Winner(s) will also have the opportunity to engage with Microsoft AI for Earth regarding the availability of the solution’s algorithm, APIs, and access to data.

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