Getting a Grip on Central Sahel’s Gold Rush
In the central Sahelian countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, armed groups have seized gold mining sites since 2016 in areas where the state is weak or absent. Artisanal gold mining has boomed since the 2012 discovery of a Saharan vein stretching from Sudan to Mauritania. Gold mines provide armed groups, in some cases including jihadists, with a new source of funding and even terrain on which to recruit. Informal networks in the region are increasingly involved in smuggling the precious metal. Artisanal mining thus risks fuelling violence and reinforcing transnational crime. Sahelian states should take steps toward formalising artisanal gold mining, while avoiding alienating miners. They should redouble efforts to secure mining areas, while ensuring that the forces doing so, whether security forces or allied militias, avoid predatory behaviour. Governments in the Sahel and those countries that buy its gold should strengthen their regulation of trade in the metal. This report analyses the security concerns related to artisanal gold mining in central Sahel, a major challenge for states whose means are limited and already highly mobilised in counter-insurgency efforts. It is based on interviews conducted in the three countries with government and international actors, gold sector officials, artisanal gold miners, members of armed groups, and experts in the extractive resources economy, specifically the gold sector. This report proposes ways to identify public and private methods of securing sites, so that steps can be taken to formalise gold mining activities and better control gold trade networks.