The world is going through a new-millennium rush in precious metals, especially gold. The great increase in gold price in the last years, probably due to a shift towards safe investments in a period of crisis in the global economy, created a rapid increase in gold production. The faster response to this shift in production came from Artisanal (ASM) and Small-scale (SSM) mining units in remote locations of the world, and Brazil is one of the main countries that has ASM and SSM on its territory. The present paper draws some definitions of Small-Scale Mining and Artisanal Mining, based on its productivity and its actual social and environmental implications, and of their sustainability. The analysis of production data of Small Scale and Large Scale Mining on global scale and on Brazilian scale shows the high potential of SSM in dealing with lower mineral grades and market fluctuations, due to its high flexibility. A general growth of the role of SSM in precious metals production in the next decades is foreseen. An elaboration on world ASM data led to a clear correlation between efficiency in production and an index of human development; this result is shown and discussed. Based on the potential of SSM to attend to the mineral market needs, efficiency in productivity is finally proposed as the main path to turn an ASM unit into a sustainable and profitable Small-Scale industrial extractive unit.