Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) Governance and Customary Tenure Institutions: Practices and Outcomes in Guinea


Paper prepared for presentation at the “2016 WORLD BANK CONFERENCE ON LAND AND POVERTY,” The World Bank—Washington DC, March 14-18, 2016.

Authors: Heather Huntington, Ph.D. (The Cloudburst Group) & Kate Marple-Cantrell (The Cloudburst Group)

There are ongoing attempts across African societies to superimpose modern legal institutions onto community institutions. In Guinea, attempts are underway to bring artisanal and small-scale diamond mining in line with a formal regulation and parcel allocation system. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Guinea’s Forécariah and Kindia regions is currently governed by customary governance structures and deeply rooted customary institutions for land and property rights management. Thus far, formal structures have failed to replace or integrate with customary institutions. Identifying how to achieve complementarity between an informal and formal system that are defined by deep cultural and structural tensions requires a solid understanding of customary institutions (Ensminger 1995). The overarching objective of this paper is to inform policy prescriptions for interventions that achieve greater overlap and integration between formal and informal institutions. To this end, the paper has two research goals. First, the study seeks to provide policy planners with a deeper understanding of the customary institutions and systems governing ASM in Guinea’s Forécariah and Kindia regions. Based on the empirical results, the paper seeks to provide concrete policy recommendations for promoting greater complementarity. Empirical data on ASM of this scope and scale is uncommon, especially in Guinea, therefore, this analysis presents a unique contribution to literature around tenure security, resource contestations and land governance for mining communities and the ASM sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. The analysis can also provide a broader contribution to research surrounding resource expropriation and environmental protection in areas with a history of strong but informal customary governance.

Key Words: Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), customary tenure, subsurface rights, land governance, Kimberley Process Certification Scheme