Accepted paper:

The end of gold? Socio-technical change and perceptions of resource scarcity and depletion in Guinea


Cristiano Lanzano (The Nordic Africa Institute (Uppsala, Sweden))
Luigi Arnaldi di Balme (Laboratoire Citoyennetés - Ouagadougou)

Paper short abstract:

In Guinea, acceleration of artisanal mining challenges modes of production previously aimed at assuring the perpetuation of the gold economy in the long term. We reflect on the implications of this process for sustainability, focusing on its elements of innovation, temporality, social reproduction.

Paper long abstract:

Artisanal mining has a long and consolidated history in present-day Guinea: the gold placers of Bouré and Séké, located at the north of the town of Siguiri (near the border with Mali), have been known to chroniclers and colonial administrators for the flourishing production and the large workforce engaged in mining activities. Similarly to other areas of the Manden (for ex. in Eastern Senegal and Southern Mali), gold has shaped local economies and social institutions to an important extent.

Recently, though, the adoption of various technical innovations, and the parallel expansion of industrial mining concessions, have shown a tendency both to the acceleration of production, on one side, and to the rarefication of space available to artisanal miners, on the other. The intensification of extraction is increasingly challenging a mode of production previously characterized by spatial and temporal limitations to mining, and by customary regulations accurately disciplining access to the resource. These transformations call into question the principles of long-term "conservation" of the resource, and of intergenerational justice, that inspired the gold economy in the area.

Using our ethnographic material on the Bouré and the Séké (collected in 2013-4 and 2019), we will develop a reflection on the idea of sustainability - as perceived and framed locally - of artisanal mining, focusing on the issues of innovation, temporality and social reproduction.

panel C07
Questioning the (un)sustainability of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining