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A dangerous bet: The challenges of formalizing artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Geenen, Sara
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    Among policy-makers and governments, there is a broad consensus that artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) needs to be ‘formalized’ – embodied in a standardized legal framework that is registered in and governed by a central state system-, the basic condition being that artisanal miners are given formal property rights. This article aims to contribute to this discussion, drawing on a case study from the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it is estimated that up to 90 percent of mineral production and export is ‘informal’. After having pointed out some of the theoretical assumptions behind the formalization canon, we study the challenges of formalizing the mining sector in the DRC. Next, we provide an in-depth analysis of one concrete policy measure of the Congolese government, the temporary ban on all artisanal activities. We argue that the mining ban was not only a radical example of a top-down formalization policy, but also an illustration of a bureaucratic and technical measure that compounds but does not address different problems associated with ASM: conflict, informality, poverty, illegality, state control. Looking at the empirical evidence from the DRC, we argue that these kinds of technical solutions can never address the broader socio-economic and political issues at stake.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Resources Policy.

    Volume (Year): 37 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 322-330

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jrpoli:v:37:y:2012:i:3:p:322-330
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/30467

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    1. Mohammed Banchirigah, Sadia, 2006. "How have reforms fuelled the expansion of artisanal mining? Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 165-171, September.
    2. Hilson, Gavin, 2009. "Small-scale mining, poverty and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa: An overview," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 1-5.
    3. La Croix, Sumner J., 1992. "Property rights and institutional change during Australia's gold rush," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 204-227, April.
    4. Siegel, Shefa & Veiga, Marcello M., 2009. "Artisanal and small-scale mining as an extralegal economy: De Soto and the redefinition of "formalization"," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 51-56.
    5. Gary D. Libecap, 2006. "The Assignment of Property Rights on the Western Frontier: Lessons for Contemporary Environmental and Resource Policy," NBER Working Papers 12598, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Clay, Karen & Wright, Gavin, 2005. "Order without law? Property rights during the California gold rush," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 155-183, April.
    7. Libecap, Gary D., 1986. "Property rights in economic history: Implications for research," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 227-252, July.
    8. Banchirigah, Sadia Mohammed, 2008. "Challenges with eradicating illegal mining in Ghana: A perspective from the grassroots," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 29-38, March.
    9. Alchian, Armen A. & Demsetz, Harold, 1973. "The Property Right Paradigm," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(01), pages 16-27, March.
    10. Umbeck, John, 1977. "The California gold rush: A study of emerging property rights," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 197-226, July.
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