Illicit Financial Flows and Conflict in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining: Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger

This report examines artisanal mining in border areas plagued by conflict and presents recommendations for policy-makers in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

By Clémence Naré , Alec Crawford, Victoria Gronwald, Olle Ostensson, Jara Bakx, Angela Jorns, Holger Grundel, Abigail MacDonald on September 13, 2022

Artisanal and small-scale mining is an essential component of West African economies. Millions of people within the region depend on it, either directly or indirectly, for their livelihoods, and it is responsible for a significant proportion of the region's mineral and metal production. When effectively governed and supported, the sector offers an excellent opportunity to advance national and regional sustainable development goals, including through the mobilization of national revenues and the creation of employment for the most vulnerable.

The 2012 discovery of a rich vein of gold stretching across the Sahel region from east to west and the subsequent gold rush coincided with a rise in religious extremism, conflict, and crime in the region, particularly in the three countries: Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali.

Illegal activities, including armed violence, terrorism, and organized crime, have exacerbated governance problems in parts of the three countries; large areas at the confluence of the three borders are now beyond the control of governments and are expanding. There is an urgent need to support government efforts to restore stability, protect their citizens and the environment, formalize mining operations, reduce corruption, and increase tax revenues from the sector.

This report presents an analysis of the context of artisanal mining in border areas currently plagued by violence and conflict. The analysis focuses on three key areas:

  • The current regional and national governance frameworks for artisanal and small-scale gold mining
  • Illicit financial flows associated with the sector
  • The links between conflict, crime, and artisanal gold mining

Finally, the report offers recommendations to the governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger on how they can strengthen their response to the threat of illicit financial flows, conflict, and crime associated with artisanal and small-scale gold mining.