'Qui cherche, trouve' : The political economy of access to gold mining and trade in South Kivu, DRC
5 May 2014
UAntwerp - Stadscampus - IOB - Building S - Promotion Hall - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Organization / co-organization:
Prof Filip Reyntjens
PhD defense Sara Geenen - IOB (Institute of Development Policy and Management)
Gold from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is infamous for sustaining a decade-long conflict and not contributing to development because of its 'illegal' and 'informal' character – it is estimated that 98 percent of it is smuggled out of the country. This dissertation demonstrates first of all why a characterisation of the gold sector in terms of 'illegality' and 'informality' makes little sense in the DRC context. It then calls for a different understanding, based on extensive empirical data which have been dug up through long-term (mainly) qualitative fieldwork in three selected sites. Kamituga, Luhwindja and Mukungwe were chosen because of their importance in terms of people employed and volumes of gold produced, because of their particular historical trajectories and because of the current configuration of artisanal and industrial mining there. Conceptually, the study revolves around 'access' or 'the ability to benefit' from resources, which implies a focus on actors and their practices – how they try to gain, maintain or control access to a resource – but also on the norms and power relations shaping their ability to benefit.
Climbing from the underground mining shafts up to the regional gold trade, this dissertation argues that the gold sector has been (as becomes clear from the historical analysis) and is characterised by specific professional norms and by ambiguous power relations. Miners, traders and other actors involved hold bundles of powers consisting of complementary mechanisms for access maintenance and access control and the configuration of access mechanisms changes over time. These changes depend on local realities, but also on the broader political economy. In the final part, this dissertation studies two recent changes in national and international policies: the attempts at formalisation and regulation of the artisanal mining sector; and the increasing presence of industrial mining companies. Formalisation and industrialisation are analysed as access control mechanisms, causing a reconfiguration of the existing mechanisms and putting a heavy pressure on miners' and traders' ability to benefit.
In brief, artisanal gold mining and trading activities do offer many benefits (economically as well as socially and culturally) to local people in South Kivu, not only directly to miners, traders and their families, but also to those trading and providing services around the mines, and indirectly to the entire local and regional economy. The question is how these people can increase and improve their benefits and maintain them under changing political economic circumstances. In the conclusion this dissertation outlines a possible development path.
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