Print version

Gold Mining in the Sahara-Sahel: The Political Geography of State-making and Unmaking


In the Sahara-Sahel, artisanal gold mining is booming. Fragile Sahelian states arguably provide a most likely case for the ‘resource conflict’ theory to hold, yet ‘resource capture’ can also underpin informal governance schemes through which the co-optation of non-state actors ushers in (hybrid) state-building. While the diversity of empirical cases lends credibility to both theories, the dialectic of proximity and distance – both social and spatial – helps make sense of the different modalities of artisanal gold mining governance in the region. In the Sahelian core of regional states, artisanal gold mining has supported regime empowerment; in the Sahara, it has helped assuage pre-existing tensions; in the Tibesti, it has led to militarisation and conflict.
Keywords: gold mining, governance, resources, state-building, violent entrepreneurs