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Governing access to gold in Ghana: in-depth geopolitics on mining concessions

  • Sabine Luning and Robert J. Pijpers

Studies of articulations between large- and small-scale mining have overlooked the subterranean dimension of extraction and ignored how mining companies and artisanal miners cohabit in places with long histories of small-scale mining and are affected by their different capacities to access specific mineral deposits. Drawing on a study of two gold concessions in Ghana, this article focuses on three factors that influence modalities of governing access to gold in such sites: the stage of a mining operation, the local socio-political context, and the characteristics of the subterranean structure. We call the combination and interplay of these factors ‘in-depth geopolitics’. The article shows how this interplay affects the strategies used by both large- and small-scale miners to work out arrangements of cohabitation and ways of governing access, control and maintenance to gold in spatial settings where both types of gold mining occur side by side. By tracing ethnographically the variations of ‘in-depth geopolitics’, this article critically engages with ideas of subterranean sovereignty, mining enclaves, state–company–community relations, and the socio-spatial characteristics of mining concessions.

Les études sur les articulations entre les activités minières à grande et à petite échelle ont occulté la dimension souterraine de l'extraction et ignoré la manière dont les sociétés minières et les artisans mineurs cohabitent dans des lieux qui ont une longue histoire d'exploitation minière à petite échelle et sont affectés par différentes capacités à accéder aux gisements. S'appuyant sur une étude de deux concessions aurifères au Ghana, cet article traite de trois facteurs qui influencent les modalités de gouvernance d'accès à l'or sur ces sites : le stade d'exploitation minière, le contexte sociopolitique local et les caractéristiques de structure souterraine. Les auteurs appellent « géopolitique en profondeur » la combinaison et l'interaction de ces facteurs. L'article montre comment cette interaction affecte les stratégies utilisées par les mineurs à grande et à petite échelle pour trouver des modes de cohabitation et de gouvernance d'accès, de contrôle et de maintenance de l'or dans les espaces où se côtoient ces deux types d'exploitation aurifère. En faisant un tracé ethnographique des variations de « géopolitique en profondeur », cet article traite de manière critique des idées de souveraineté souterraine, d'enclaves minières, des relations État/entreprise/communauté et des caractéristiques socio-spatiales des concessions minières.

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