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

September 14, 2022

The IGF has released a new report that examines artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in border areas plagued by conflict and violence in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

“There is an urgent need to support governments in the region as they work to formalize ASGM activities, restore stability, and protect their citizens and the environment,” said Clémence Naré, a report author and Senior Law Advisor with the IGF.

Artisanal and small-scale mining is an essential component of West African economies. Millions of people in 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 production.

“When effectively governed and supported, ASGM can advance national and regional sustainable development goals, by increasing tax revenues and creating employment.”

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 Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali. Illegal activities, including armed violence, terrorism, and organized crime, have exacerbated governance problems in parts of these countries. Large, expanding areas at the confluence of their national borders are now beyond the control of governments.

This report, co-written by the IGF and Levin Sources, examines 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 ASGM
  • Illicit financial flows associated with the sector
  • The links between conflict, crime, terrorism, and ASGM.

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 ASGM.

The IGF supports more than 75 member nations committed to leveraging mining for sustainable development to ensure negative impacts are limited and financial benefits are shared. It is devoted to optimizing the benefits of mining to achieve poverty reduction, inclusive growth, social development, and environmental stewardship. The International Institute for Sustainable Development has served as Secretariat for the IGF since October 2015. Core funding is provided by the governments of Canada and the Netherlands.