Worldwide and particularly in Latin America, non-mechanized or manual mining has been a means of sustenance for rural populations or for city migrants who move looking for work in these areas, both living in unfavorable social conditions; it is, therefore, necessary to recognize the socio-legal aspects surrounding this activity. To accomplish this, we conducted a descriptive research on three dependent variables: conceptualization, mining legality and formality. We obtained this data through interviews with mayors, three field visits and a comparative analysis of mining laws in 23 Latin-American countries. We found this activity to be essentially rudimentary, carried out in an area of no more than 20 acres with a production does not exceed five tons per worker/day. Non-mechanized mining has been stigmatized and persecuted by the adaptation of rules benefiting large-scale mining and regulations that do not differentiate between small-scale mining, usually mechanized, and manual mining. Ultimately, we found that several Latin American countries require these small operations to adhere to the same conditions as large-scale mining projects, forcing non-mechanized miners to carry out their activities illegally and maintain their livelihoods.