Global Innovation Competition to Transform Artisanal Mining Announced at #WWW2019

STOCKHOLM, AUGUST, 27, 2019 -- Conservation X Labs, in partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Microsoft, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and Wake Forest University’s Center for Amazonian Science and Innovation (CINCIA) announced the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge during a featured panel presentation at SIWI’s World Water Week 2019.


The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge is an international open innovation competition to support game-changing solutions along supply chains for any commodity in any geography that will transform the social and environmental impacts of the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector. The global coalition of organizations supporting the Grand Challenge, initiated by Conservation X Labs, is offering over $750,000 in prizes and a suite of resources to innovators.


“A growing globalized and digital economy brings new challenges for biodiversity conservation and development, and the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge tackles an emergent global challenge head-on by working with, rather than against, market forces,” said Dr. Alex Dehgan, CEO of Conservation X Labs. “World Water Week is the perfect venue to announce the launch of this exciting initiative because, like the Grand Challenge, it highlights the importance of collaborative, multi-disciplinary, and global approaches to tackling pressing water challenges.”


During the panel presentation, the partner organizations presented on the problems and promising solutions for the ASM sector in the Amazon, explored equitable pathways for adopting innovations in the field, and called on attendees to join the growing coalition of organizations contributing to support the Grand Challenge and the solutions it will support.


“We are excited to see the novel solutions and innovations that will be developed by this Grand Challenge deployed in the field where the needs grow ever more urgent,” said Dr. Luis E. Fernandez of Wake Forest University Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA). “Increasing rates of deforestation, mercury pollution and water contamination from ASM in places like the Amazon, Indonesia, and the Congo Basin threaten the health of ecosystems and human communities worldwide.”


The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge seeks breakthrough innovations in three sub-challenge categories:

·      Innovations implemented at ASM sites to prevent, remediate, or restore impacts from ASM to water, hydrology, land, biodiversity, human health, and/or ecosystems

·      Innovations implemented downstream from ASM sites, at any point in the supply chain that significantly reduce the social and environmental costs of commodities sourced by ASM, and

·      Information solutions on-site and downstream from ASM sites that measure the environmental and social impacts of ASM and equip people with the tools to improve those impacts.


Innovators in the Grand Challenge will compete for a suite of resources from the challenge partners including $750,000 prize pool, access to a global scaling and field implementation network in the field, and world-class technical expertise and mentorship. Additionally, Microsoft’s AI for Earth Initiative is awarding $100,000 for solutions that utilize or deploy artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning, in any of the sub-challenge categories.


“Microsoft and the AI for Earth Initiative are committed to advancing the application of AI to tackle the world’s greatest environmental challenges,” said Bonnie Lei, Microsoft’s AI for Earth Program Manager. “This partnership with the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge showcases the commitment Microsoft has made to environmental sustainability and the ways in which technology companies can contribute to meaningful solutions for the planet.”


The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge boasts an international coalition of partners and collaborators, including Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Microsoft, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Andes Amazon Fund, the Amazon Conservation Association, The Tech Interactive, and the Delve platform.


“Moore Foundation has committed over $500 million in conservation and supporting strategies to bring almost 1/3 of the Amazonian forest cover under sustainable management, through working with governments, civil society and communities living in and around protected areas and indigenous lands,” said Aileen Lee, Moore Foundation’s Chief Program Officer. “The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge addresses an underlying driver of environmental change and species extinction that affects all of the countries where we work and remains a major challenge for our partners.  We encourage other philanthropies and funders to take similar risks to invest in the innovations we need to deploy to create a more responsible future for the sector.”


The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge will formally open for application submissions on October 2, 2019, at the Global Launch Event at The Tech Interactive in San Jose, California. The launch event is free and open to the public.


Interested in learning more about the Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge? You can find details and ways to get involved on the challenge website:

 Image: CINCIA/Jason Houston

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For all requests for more information or to interview challenge partners, please contact Dr. Barbara Martinez, Open Innovation Director, at


About Conservation X Labs

Founded in 2015, Conservation X Labs (CXL) is an innovation and technology company that works in the field of conservation. Learn more at


Competition Launched by Coalition of Global Partners