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One step forward, one step backwards: African regimes' changing relations with artisanal miners

Ziaba, Isaac Haruna (2022) One step forward, one step backwards: African regimes' changing relations with artisanal miners. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004496


This thesis explores and explains differences in how resource-rich African countries respond to artisanal and small-scale mining operatives. There is mounting evidence that these countries repress artisanal miners to protect large-scale mining companies’ mineral concessions, not least because of the revenue streams from these companies. However, recent scholarship shifts the analytical focus from states to regimes (i.e., governments) and suggests that regimes tolerate or raid artisanal miners over time. Nevertheless, why some regimes prefer raids to tolerance and whether all artisanal miners get tolerated or raided are unclear. The thesis unravels this puzzle by drawing on Ghana and Tanzania as case studies with data from ten months of fieldwork involving in-depth interviews and observations in mining conferences, supplemented by official mining and media reports, relevant published articles, electoral data, and survey data. It argues that African regimes’ relations with artisanal miners are complex and multi-layered, inextricably intertwined with regimes’ power consolidation efforts. While some regimes tolerate artisanal miners, others introduce varying layers of military raids targeting different groups of artisanal miners. The thesis finds that CCM regimes in Tanzania generally raid artisanal miners to protect mining companies’ interests when the political opposition is weak but otherwise tolerate artisanal miners to buy votes. However, the presence of a strong political opposition does not invariably result in the tolerance of all artisanal miners, as artisanal miners linked to the political opposition do suffer repression. In Ghana, indigenous artisanal miners are politically connected to the NDC, while illegal Chinese miners have links with the NPP. Thus, NDC regimes use raids to vilify illegal Chinese miners. By contrast, NPP regimes raid the sector in ways that penalise most indigenous artisanal miners but protect mining companies’ and illegal Chinese miners’ interests. These findings provide novel insights into how politics underpins regimes’ responses to artisanal miners in Africa. Notably, they highlight how, under certain circumstances, some informal workers do not need to overcome collective action problems to influence outcomes and why big businesses’ collective action prowess does not always drive outcomes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Isaac Haruna Ziaba
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Green, Elliott D. and Putzel, James

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