Accepted Paper:

Digital technologies and changing red-flagging mechanisms from the end-side perspective of the gold supply chain  


Matthieu Bolay (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies)

Paper short abstract:

This paper documents initiatives of the gold refinery industry that seek to track and trace gold "from mine to market" and discusses digital technologies' effects of inclusion and exclusion in setting up traceable and "ethical" gold.

Paper long abstract:

The expansion of gold mining in West and Central Africa has been widely documented in recent years. Yet, the downstream of the gold supply chain, across which a great variety of production networks merge, tend to be overlooked. The refinery industry plays a key role in this process by conflating technical procedures, certification schemes, and by acting as a catalyst for trade, thus linking production networks with the consumption side of the chain. Because of this position, refiners are increasingly expected to act diligently and to be accountable for labour and environmental issues upstream in the production process.

This paper documents industry initiatives that seek to track and trace gold "from mine to market", to evaluate upstream social and environmental "risks", and upon which a more inclusive distribution of wealth might be envisioned. Based on preliminary fieldwork with actors of the refinery and trade sector, it questions practices of red-flagging and discusses the deemed benefits of digital technologies in setting up traceable and "ethical" gold. In particular, the paper looks at effects of inclusion and exclusion at play in making labour and land ethical objects.

Panel Anth45
Ethical certification between traceability and transparency: the future of digital technologies in Africa