This article explores the relationship between transnational governance initiatives for ‘conflict-free’ certification in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the regulatory pluralism one finds on the ground. Efforts in certifying artisanal gold mining are scrutinised by analysing how three different gold mining sites in the DRC's South Kivu province are governed. Most artisanal mining in the DRC is usually referred to as ‘informal’ – a term associated with non-state actors. Instead, the article introduces the idea of a mode of governing that follows the principle of ‘débrouillardise’, which combines different rule systems and state and non-state regulators. It argues that ‘conflict-free’ governance will need to improvise via ad hoc agreements on the legal status of mining sites among state authorities, economic actors and international monitors. The act of declaring mining sites legal will provide for the semblance of a ‘conflict-free’ status and a unitary state system of rule, while in practice, the plurality of regulatory authority will not be reversed.