In Burkina Faso, the last 10 years have seen a progressive and impressive rise of the mining industry in the national economy. Seven open-pit industrial mines have opened since 2007, about 700 prospecting permits are currently owned. At the same time, illegal artisanal mining in many parts of the country has also become an important basis for rural livelihoods. The mining code seemingly strives to accommodate these, often competing, interests. In this paper I analyse why and how this is falling short from the point of view of mining rights in practice. Given the weakened capacity of central government under economic liberalisation, the proverbial discrepancy between the way property rights are inscribed in law and how they play out in practice is hardly surprising. Understanding what kinds of social actors and relations have replaced the state in its social regulatory role is an important question however. Through a critical historical examination of the Mining Code I show how the economic liberalisation of gold mining has eroded the ability of the central administration to allocate mining rights, especially in settings with competing claims to gold. I argue that in these settings, elected municipal governments have become de facto strategic actors for the arbitration of claims, but their role and responsibilities are not defined within the Code. This lack of recognition, I suggest, constitutes the turf on which clientelist relations between these local authorities and industrial mining actors grow, which in turn undermines the possibility for these authorities to represent their constituents' interests.
Côte, M. LDPI Working Paper 25. What’s in a Right? The liberalisation of gold mining and decentralisation inBurkina Faso. The Land Deal Politics Initiative, (2013) 25 pp.