MIT D-Lab works to empower artisanal women miners in Colombia

An MIT D-Lab project launched in 2020 aims to support Colombia's 'las chatarreras', women who partake in the country's informal sector of small-scale gold mining, through the development of a labour movement aimed at reducing gender-based violence and environmental degradation through community-led solutions.


In Colombia, approximately 60 percent of gold extraction originates from an informal sector known as artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Among them are “las chatarreras,” women who arrive early in the morning at the mines to scavenge and collect rocks or tailings discarded by male miners.

Through a project launched in 2020, MIT D-Lab is working with these women to help them build a labor movement focused on reducing gender-based violence and environmental degradation. Central to the D-Lab’s project is their methodology of creative capacity building, which promotes community-driven innovation and solutions.

The Colombian government doesn’t recognize las chatarreras as official workers, leaving them without permits and licenses to sell their gold at market value. Often they are left to negotiate with intermediaries, who are known to pressure them for sex. Most women carry young children on their backs as they work in dangerous conditions.

MIT News