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Department of Geography

Making Concessions at the Mining Frontier in Burkina Faso

Large-scale mineral extraction projects in the global south fundamentally transform state-society relations in producing countries. Extractive enclaves evolve in the concession areas, in which commercial, traditional and national regulatory regimes entangle.

gold mine in burkina faso

During the past years, Burkina Faso experienced a remarkable gold rush. The resouce export is of great importance for the state. To attract international investors in gold production, the central government makes concessions, which leave the mining entrepreneurs with much freedom in fulfilling regulatory functions within their territory. The concessionary license holders therefore play a significant role in the arbitration of local conflicts over land and water management, and other aspects of public life that extend beyond the extraction of gold at the site. Some e.g. collaborate and therefore legalize small-scale artisanal mining, whereas in other territories traditional mining shafts are illegal.

Many licence holders hire private security forces to deal with smuggeling, fraud or illegal mining, but their mandate is limited. They are e.g. not allowed to bring ciminals  forcibly to a police station. Here the National Police is in charge.

Another entanglement of business and politics emerges when shaft owners fulfill their role as providers of public services, that the local and central governments failed to deliver, and as a consequence are elected as local politians.

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Muriel Côte, Benedikt Korf