Beyond policy: The political economy of artisanal and small-scale mining

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Stones Throw 2 - Slate, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Gisselle Vila Benites, Martin Lukas
Chairs: Gisselle Vila Benites


This panel will explore the political-economic dimensions of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), with particular attention to its policy-making processes, the political dynamics and power relations that interweave mineral chains, and the social and environmental consequences of resource extraction. ASM has critical importance to alleviate poverty, but also negatively impacts communities and the environment. 150 million people around the world depend on this activity (IIED, 2013), a workforce that contributes to approximately 20% of the world’s mineral and metal production (Villegas et al. 2012). However, about 80% of the ASM sector worldwide remains informal (IGF, 2017), with mining and trade largely evolving beyond formal policies and state control (Hausermann et al. 2018).

Research about ASM has expanded during the last decades. A focus on formalization shortcomings has richly explained the influence of limited resources in the implementation and enforcement of mineral policies, including governments’ lack of funding, inadequate infrastructure, and limited human resources (Van Bockstael, 2014; Verbrugge & Besmanos, 2016). Policies have been critiqued as well for being unfitted to (poorly understood) realities on the ground, for being driven by paradigms of state territorial control, and for further marginalizing miners (Hilson & McQuilken, 2014; Hilson & Potter, 2003; Spiegel, 2012).

To provide a nuanced understanding of the complexities underlying formalization policies and ASM expansion, this panel will highlight the roles of historically grown social structures and tenure regimes (Hausermann et al. 2018), the manifold entanglements between legalities and illegalities (Peluso 2018), the largely varying scope of miners and mining activities that produce site-specific relations, and the political-economic relations that underlie policymaking. Further attention will also be given to the social and environmental impacts of ASM, and their implications for articulated territorial interventions that target complex mineral landscapes. Thus, the panel aims to bridge a dialogue between the multiple dimensions associated with ASM, ranging from political economy to sustainability science, and promote the discussion of integrated interventions.


Hausermann, H., Ferring, D., Atosona, B., Mentz, G., Amankwah, R., Chang, A., Hartfield, K. Effah, E. Asuamah, G.Y., Mansell, C. & Sastri, N. (2018). Land-grabbing, land-use transformation and social differentiation: Deconstructing “small-scale” in Ghana's recent gold rush, World Development, 108, 103-114.

Hilson, G. & McQuilken, J. (2014). Four decades of support for artisanal and small-scale mining in sub-Saharan Africa: A critical review. Extractive Industries and Society, 1(1), 104–118.

Hilson, G. & Potter, C. (2003). Why Is Illegal Gold Mining Activity so Ubiquitous in Rural Ghana? African Development Review, 15(2–3), 237–270.

IGF (2017). Global Trends in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM): A review of key numbers and issues. Winnipeg. Retrieved from

IIED (2013). Sustainable Markets Responding to the challenge of artisanal and small-scale mining. How can knowledge networks help ?

Peluso, N.P. (2018). Entangled Territories in Small-Scale Gold Mining Frontiers: Labor Practices, Property, and Secrets in Indonesian Gold Country. World Development, 101, 400-416.

Spiegel, S. J. (2012). Governance Institutions, Resource Rights Regimes, and the Informal Mining Sector: Regulatory Complexities in Indonesia. World Development, 40(1), 189–205.

Van Bockstael, S. (2014). The persistence of informality: Perspectives on the future of artisanal mining in Liberia. Futures, 62, 10–20.

Verbrugge, B. & Besmanos, B. (2016). Formalizing artisanal and small-scale mining: Whither the workforce? Resources Policy, 47, 134–141.

Villegas, C., Weinberg, R., Levin, E., Hund, K., & Hund, K. (2012). Artisanal and small-scale mining in protected areas and critical ecosystems programme (ASM-PACE); a global solutions study. Retrieved from


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Martin Lukas*, University of Bremen, Sustainabilty Research Center (artec), Illicit dendritic flows of gold, money, jewellery, and mercury 20 5:00 PM
Presenter Gisselle Vila Benites*, The University of Melbourne, The formalization of artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Colombia: a political settlement approach 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Brian Klein*, University of California - Berkeley, Ordering the Underground: The Politics of Governance, Access, and (In)Formality in Madagascar’s Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Wilbert Karigomba*, Northwest Arkansas Community College, Dirty Gold Rush: The Environmental Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in Zimbabwe 20 6:00 PM
Presenter Janet Adomako*, Rutgers University, Heidi Hausermann, Colorado State University, Gendered Landscapes: Political Ecology of Small-scale Gold Mining in Ghana 20 6:20 PM

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