Natural Resource Investment and Africa’s Development

Natural Resource Investment and Africa’s Development

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Edited by Francis N. Botchway

This well-researched book covers a wide spectrum of important issues that are central to investment in natural resources and ultimately, economic development of Africa.

Chapter 5: ‘A Conflict of Interest’? A Critical Examination of Artisanal/Large-scale Miner Relations in Sub-Saharan Africa

Gavin Hilson

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, law and development


Gavin Hilson 1 INTRODUCTION Over the past two decades, multinational mining companies headquartered in Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia have established and/or expanded several operations across the region, lured by generous investment incentives offered by host governments desperate to revive slumping economies. At the same time, indigenously supported, labour-intensive artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)1 – particularly activities emphasizing the extraction and processing of gold – has also expanded, in the process intensifying competition for increasingly scarce mineralized lands. With few exceptions, however, the needs of artisanal gold miners have been, and continue to be, overlooked in favour of those of large-scale gold mine operators. The latter comprise an industry which is backed by billions of dollars in foreign investment and receives additional support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private finance arm of the World Bank.2 The region’s artisanal gold miners have struggled to secure licences to work what little viable land remains; desperate to generate an income, many have resorted to encroaching on to sections of concessions that have been demarcated to large-scale mine operators,3 which in some cases has led to violent confrontation. The recent and rapid proliferation of so-called ‘illegal’ artisanal gold mining has caught the attention of donors, large-scale miners currently operating across sub-Saharan Africa and prospective foreign investors. Over the past decade, tensions between the region’s artisanal miners and large-scale mine operators have intensified. The former maintain that, despite their ‘trespassing’, they are generally working the near-surface and alluvial deposits that large...

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