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Professor Gavin Hilson


Professor and Chair of Sustainability in Business
+44 (0)1483 686326
24 MS 02

Academic and research departments

Surrey Business School.

Biography

Areas of specialism

The social and environmental impacts of artisanal and small-scale mining; The extractive industries and development; Sub-Saharan Africa

My qualifications

2003
Ph.D.
Imperial College London
1999
Masters of Arts
University of Toronto
1998
BSc (Honours)
University of Toronto
2008
Fellow
The Higher Education Academy, UK

Previous roles

2007 - 2012
Reader in Environment and Development
The University of Reading
2006 - 2007
Lecturer in Development Studies
The University of Manchester
2004 - 2005
Lecturer in Environmental Planning
Cardiff University

Research

Research interests

Research projects

Supervision

Postgraduate research supervision

My publications

Publications

GM Hilson, J McQuilken (2016)Moving overseas? Critical reflections on the implementation of Latin American ethical gold schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa, In: Mining in Latin America: Critical Approaches to the New Extraction(10)pp. 184-210 Routledge

In April 2013, it was announced that Fair Trade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) and the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM)1 were not going to renew their working agreement. For nearly a decade, the former, a Bonn-based umbrella body which coordinates the efforts of 20 national Fairtrade bodies, was courted by the latter, a Colombia-headquartered NGO, to certify its Standard Zero for Fair Trade Artisanal Gold and Associated Silver and Platinum, a blueprint of ethical standards for small-scale gold mines.2 Following several revisions, the FLO-endorsed Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold Standards emerged. They were officially unveiled in March 2010 in London, where they were portrayed as an intervention capable of connecting disempowered artisanal miners to Western jewellers. The work undertaken by ARM officials to bring the Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold Standards to fruition has become a story of legend in mining and development circles. Propelled by the initiative, drive and tireless efforts of a former director, the organisation quickly mobilised a panel of experts in 2006. As Echavarria (2008) explains, members of the ‘technical committee’ assembled were then asked to review the key components – ‘subject areas’ – of the initial draft of Standard Zero: health and safety, environmental management, gender, child labour, sustainable livelihoods, governance, formalisation and marketing. A second comprehensive review of Standard Zero took place in early-2007 in Lima, Peru, where the technical committee collated feedback from workshops, attended by a combined 300 participants, held across South America and Africa. The revised Standard Zero that emerged followed the typical Fairtrade grouping of social, labour, economic and environmental development criteria. In a sector – i.e., mining – that has long been marred by exploitation, environmental destruction and social ills, the Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold Standards provided a much-needed ‘feel good’ story. From the beginning, the blueprint was skillfully marketed, at times overzealously, as a ‘pro-poor’ intervention. The message conveyed to the general public was that Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold is being sourced from vulnerable people engaged in small-scale mining. As reported by one widely-read magazine: "For the first time, consumers now have the opportunity to buy jewellery that is Fairtrade and Fairmined certified, and this is a hugely important step for the industry. To achieve this guarantee, standards have been determined by Fairtrade International (FLO) and the Colombia-based Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), with the aim of empowering artisanal and small scale miners to achieve a fair price for their work …, [certification which] not only addresses working conditions and environmental responsibility but drives improvements in living conditions and prospects for whole communities" (Zukin 2014). Ethical jewellery – rings, necklaces and other wear fabricated using precious metals and stones that have been sourced responsibly – has, indeed, captured the public’s imagination in recent years. In addition to there being tens of thousands of conscious consumers, a range of celebrities are now seen wearing ‘ethical jewellery,’ which innovative marketing campaigns have drawn enormous attention to. In the case of Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold, fanfare and intrigue surrounding its perceived impact began to escalate following the 2011 Academy Awards ceremony, at which the first piece of certified jewellery was worn by Livia Firth, wife of Oscar winner Colin Firth (Firth 2011). The announcement of the ARM-Fairtrade divorce caused considerable stir among ethical consumers, jewellers and campaigners, many of whom feared that the move would derail the ethical gold movement effort entirely. The split itself was over ‘mass balancing’ (Choir 2013). ARM was pushing to certify ‘diluted’ product, its management clearly having entrepreneurial aspirations from the outset and likely tiring from masquerading as an NGO-type organisation. It suggests as much on its website, reporting that ‘The partnership between ARM and Fairtrade brought both great success and some important lessons … [but that the] speed of change happening in the ethical gold market, led ARM and Fairtrade International to believe that greater opportunities for miners may be achieved by working independently and therefore decided not to renew the partnership on Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold in 2013’ (ARM, n.d.). For FLO, ‘mass balancing’ was not an option.3 Its officials presumably viewed the move as a departure from the original objectives of Fairtrade/Fairmined gold. In ARM’s defence, however, FLO, buoyed by the billions of dollars in sales from its flagship agricultural projects, has the luxury of being able to wait patiently for new supplies of certified gold to be identified and brought to market. In response to the announcement, an open letter was sent to Fairtrade and ARM, signed by 140 parties scattered across seven countries. The signatories, including jewellers and license holders, made it clear that they do not want Mining_in_Latin_America_Ch10_1pp.indd 185 26/03/16 9:49 AM 186 Gavin Hilson and James McQuilken ‘mass-balancing,’ and demanded ‘a Fairtrade Gold product that is both traceable from source and socially empowering for small-scale mining communities’ (Miller et al., n.d.). But the petition failed to prevent the split, and in 2013, the separate Fairtrade Standard for Gold and Associated Precious Metals for Artisanal and Small Scale Mining and Fairmined Standard for Gold from Artisanal and Small- Scale Mining, Including Associated Precious Metals were launched by FLO and ARM, respectively. Despite their initial objections, a number of retailers have since embraced the latter’s ‘mass balanced’ product, in large part because of the acute shortage of certifiable, traceable precious mineral stock available on the market. But by openly expressing their concerns over the split between FLO and ARM possibly removing the ‘Fair’ from Fair Trade, many retailers have revealed how committed they are to responsible sourcing. This is particularly the case with the owners of boutique-type organisations, many of whom have been energised by the ethical minerals movement and growing consumer expectations for jewellers to work with metals that are traceable. Yet, at the same time, the petition exposed how little knowledge jewellers have of small-scale mining and gold production overall. Despite claims which may suggest otherwise, Fairtrade and Fairmined projects are not ‘pro-poor’ interventions capable of having transformative impacts on local livelihoods and lifting the masses out of poverty. As Hilson (2014) explains, in the absence of set criteria concerning what ‘ethical minerals’ mean, as well as guidelines on how to devise schemes which mirror flagship agricultural certification projects, many organisations have found themselves manoeuvring in a sizable policy ‘space,’ in which they have been able to conceive, largely pressure-free, their own definitions of ‘Fair.’ On the one hand, in devising schemes that are nowhere close to being ‘pro-poor,’ both ARM and FLO, along with Solidaridad, a Dutch NGO which these organisations often called upon to assist with training, implementation and certification, could be seen as being opportunistic, recognising the sizable scar on the jeweller’s conscience and responding very innovatively to the growing desperation to source precious minerals that are conflict-free and traceable. On the other hand, because the livelihoods dimension of small-scale mining barely registers on the global extractive industries and development agenda, the design and implementation of any ‘pro-poor’ ethical mineral scheme promises to be exceptionally challenging. This chapter critically reflects on these issues at a time when ARM and FLO are working diligently to expand their work into sub-Saharan Africa. Looking to build upon their experiences in Latin America, both organisations have piloted projects across sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim of connecting jewellers to its small-scale gold miners. If, however, the primary objective of the move is to develop ‘pro-poor’ interventions capable of having transformative impacts on rural livelihoods, then efforts aimed at ‘scaling up’ ethical gold production must also emphasise some ‘scaling down:’ specifically, targeting and reaching the smallest operators who are typically excluded from development interventions. In sub- Saharan Africa, this has its own unique challenges. capable of alleviating hardships in impoverished areas of the developing world.

G Hilson, N Yakovleva (2006)Strained relations: a critical assessment of the mining conflict in Prestea, Ghana, In: Small-scale Mining, Rural Subsistence and Poverty in West Africapp. 241-251 Practical Action Pub
Gavin Hilson, Tara Rava Zolnikov, Daisy Ramirez Ortiz, Cynthia Kumah (2018)Formalizing Artisanal Gold Mining under the Minamata Convention: Previewing the Challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa, In: Environmental Science and Policy85pp. 123-131 Elsevier

This article contributes to a growing body of literature which explores how the Minamata Convention on Mercury is influencing the development of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech mineral extraction and processing – in sub-Saharan Africa. Conceived to raise awareness of the environmental impact of mercury and to minimize its use in industry, the Convention focuses heavily on ASM, the largest source of anthropogenic emissions of mercury worldwide. Article 7 of the Convention requires ratifying countries with ‘more than significant quantities of ASGM [artisanal and small-scale gold mining]’ to draft comprehensive National Action Plans (NAPs) that outline training programs for the handling of mercury and strategies for reducing emissions from artisanal and small-scale gold mines. The focus here, however, is on one point in particular, the importance of which, thus far, has been largely-overlooked: the need for ratifying countries to include in their NAPs ‘Steps to facilitate the formalization or regulation of the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector’. In sub-Saharan Africa, where most ASM activities are found in the informal ‘space’, this promises to be a contentious issue moving forward. The article explains why this is the case, drawing heavily on findings from research being conducted in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Mali, three of the region’s most dynamic ASM economies.

This paper explains how formalizing and supporting artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labor-intensive mineral processing and extraction – would help governments in sub-Saharan Africa meet several targets linked the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While most of the men and women found working in ASM in the region choose to operate without the requisite permits and are rarely monitored or regulated, the local impacts of their activities are significant. After examining the long historical trajectory that has relegated most ASM activities in sub-Saharan Africa to the informal economy, three of the sector’s more obvious economic impacts are reviewed: its contribution to regional mineral outputs; how operations create employment opportunities for millions of people directly, and millions more in the downstream and upstream industries they spawn; and the links the sector has with subsistence agriculture, dynamics which have important implications for food security and gender equality. These contributions alone are sufficient justification for featuring ASM more prominently in the plans, policies and programs being launched in sub-Saharan Africa to help host governments meet their commitments to the SDGs.

GM Hilson, G Okoh (2011)Poverty and Livelihood Diversification: Exploring the Linkages Between Smallholder Farming and Artisanal Mining in Rural Ghana, In: Journal of International Development23(8)pp. 1100-1014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
GM Hilson, G Van Bockstael (2011)Diamond Mining, Rice Farming and a "Maggi Cube": A Viable Poverty Alleviation Strategy in Rural Liberia, In: Journal of International Development23(8)pp. 1042-1053 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
Roy Maconachie, Gavin Hilson (2018)‘The war whose bullets you don't see’: Diamond digging, resilience and Ebola in Sierra Leone, In: Journal of Rural Studies61pp. 110-122 Elsevier

This paper reflects critically on the transformational impacts the recent Ebola epidemic has had in diamond-rich areas of rural Sierra Leone. It focuses specifically on the country's ‘diggers’, a sizable group of labourers who occupy the bottom of the country's artisanal diamond mine production pyramid. Based upon research conducted in the diamond-producing localities of Kenema and Kono, the paper argues how, in sharp contrast to the gloomy picture painted in the literature about their existences and struggles, diggers exhibited considerable resilience during the Ebola crisis. Their diversified livelihood portfolios proved to be effective survival strategies and buffers against the shocks and stresses brought about by lengthy periods of quarantine, and during times when mobility was restricted by the government in a bid to prevent the spreading of the disease. Drawing inspiration from the resilience literature, the paper captures the essence of these survival strategies, which should be viewed as latest reshuffling and expansion of diggers' rural livelihood portfolios. Policymakers and donors have yet to embrace fully these changes in a country where the Ebola recovery period promises to be lengthy and at a time when fresh, locally-informed rural development solutions are in short supply.

Gavin Hilson, Yanfei Hu, Cynthia Kumah (2020)Locating Female ‘Voices’ in the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Ghana, In: Environmental Science and Policy107pp. 123-136 Elsevier

Countries that have ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a United Nations-backed international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from releases of mercury and mercury compounds, are required to produce a National Action Plan (NAP). Each must state, very clearly, how the mercury being used at artisanal and small-scale gold mines will be phased out. In most areas of sub-Saharan Africa, however, devising a comprehensive NAP promises to be an enormous and indeed, challenging, undertaking. Here, the institutional capacity and resources, expertise and at times, commitment needed to capture the level of detail the Minamata Secretariat expects to be included in each NAP are woefully lacking. One of the more challenging tasks ahead, given the shortage of hard data available on the sector’s populations, production and activities, promises to be the design and implementation of appropriate educational, communication and support-related strategies for the ‘vulnerable populations’ who rely on work at artisanal and small-scale gold mines for their incomes. This is especially significant for women, who, despite accounting for at least 50 percent of the region’s artisanal and small-gold mine workforce, mostly carry out the manual work at the lower tiers of the sector’s labour hierarchies. Taking stock of this largely ‘invisible’ work and the circumstances driving individuals to pursue employment in this sector in the first place, this paper reflects critically on the challenges with reducing women’s exposure to mercury at artisanal and small-scale gold mines in sub-Saharan Africa. It draws on findings from ongoing research in Ghana, the location of one of the largest and most dynamic artisanal and small-scale gold mining sectors in the region.

GM Hilson, JT McQuilken (2014)Four decades of support for artisanal and small-scale mining in sub-Saharan Africa: A critical review, In: The Extractive Industries and Society1(1)pp. 104-118 Elsevier

This review reflects critically on why, despite its growing economic importance, artisanal and small-scale (ASM) - low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing - occupies such a peripheral position on the economic development agenda of sub-Saharan Africa. A poor understanding of the sector's role in the region's liberalized economies has certainly contributed to this oversight; as has the strong influence, at the policymaking level, of unfounded ideas and generalizations about the sector's activities. After providing a brief overview of ASM in sub-Saharan Africa, the paper explores why the sector has yet to make a mark on the region's local economic development agenda and feature prominently in its poverty alleviation strategies.

GM Hilson, AE Hilson, E Adu-Darko (2014)Chinese Participation in Ghana's Informal Gold Mining Economy: Drivers, Implications and Clarifications, In: Journal of Rural Studies

This paper argues that a formalized and supported artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector could assist immeasurably with reducing the intensity of the youth unemployment crisis which now plagues sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of the region’s youth have pursued work in the ASM economy in various capacities, decisions which have brought muchneeded stability in a landscape devoid of formal sector job opportunities. Host governments and donors, however, have often condemned these moves, failing to fully appreciate why youth have pursued work in ASM in the first place and the impact it has had on their livelihoods. Whilst by no means the solution to the youth unemployment problem in sub-Saharan Africa, heightened emphasis on formalizing and supporting ASM could certainly buy policymakers and donors some valuable time – at least in the short term – to sufficiently ‘re-think’ their ineffective approaches to tackling the crisis

R Maconachie, G Hilson (2016)Re-Thinking the Child Labor "Problem" in Rural sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Sierra Leone's Half Shovels, In: WORLD DEVELOPMENT78pp. 136-147 PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD

The purpose of this book is to examine both the positive and negative socio economic impacts of artisanal and small-scale mining in developing countries.

Gavin Hilson, Abigail Hilson, Roy Maconachie, James Mcquilken, Halima Goumandakoye (2017)Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in Sub-Saharan Africa: Re-conceptualizing Formalization and ‘Illegal’ Activity, In: Geoforum83pp. 80-90 Elsevier

This article contributes to the debate on the formalization of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing – in developing countries. A unique sector populated by an eclectic group of individuals, ASM has expanded rapidly in all corners of the world in recent years. Most of its activities, however, are informal, scattered across lands which are not officially titled. But growing recognition of the sector's economic importance, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, has forced donors, and to some extent, policymakers, to ‘rethink’ development strategies for ASM. As part of broader moves to improve the regulation of, and occasionally intensify the delivery of assistance to, the sector, many are now searching frantically for fresh ideas on how to bring operations into the legal domain, where, it is believed, they can be regulated, monitored and supported more effectively. A challenging exercise, this entails first determining, with some degree of precision, why people choose to operate informally in this sector. Drawing on analysis from the literature and findings from research conducted in Ghana and Niger, it is argued that the legalist school (on informality) in part explains how governments across sub-Saharan Africa are ‘creating’ bureaucracies which are stifling the formalization of ASM activities in the region. A more nuanced development strategy grounded in local realities is needed if formalization is to have a transformative effect on the livelihoods of those engaged in ASM in the region and elsewhere in the developing world.

Gavin Hilson, A Hilson, James Mcquilken (2016)Ethical minerals: Fairer trade for whom?, In: Resources Policy49pp. 232-247 Elsevier

This paper offers preliminary reflections on the direction and impact of the emerging ‘ethical minerals’ agenda, focusing specifically on the case of sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past two decades, the mining industry in this region has experienced profound change, reshaped by large injections of foreign investment. During this period, host governments have redrafted fiscal policies in an attempt to attract multinational mining and exploration companies. These moves, however, have stifled the regularization of artisanal and small-scale mine operators, hundreds of thousands of whom have struggled to secure their own permits due to a lack of available land, the exorbitant costs of legalizing their activities, and excessively-bureaucratic registration processes. Ethical mineral schemes and standards, which seek to connect producers to consumers, have been championed as potential mechanisms for alleviating the hardships of these operators. But further analysis reveals that there is considerable discrepancy between the implied and at times, stated, aims and impacts of the interventions being piloted/implemented in the region on the one hand, and what is actually happening in practice on the other hand. The analysis serves as a stark reminder that the ethical mineral schemes and standards being piloted/implemented are not development interventions, as is often believed.

GM Hilson (2011)'A Conflict of Interest'? A Critical Examination of Artisanal/Large-scale Miner Relations in Sub-Saharan Africa, In: Natural Resource Investment and Africa's Development Edward Elgar Publishing

Francis N. Botchway. PART III THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT OF AFRICAN RESOURCE EXPLOITATION 9 Evolution of international investment law and implications for Africa 293 Emmanuel Laryea 10 Commodity agreements and markets ...

Gavin Hilson (2013)“Creating” Rural Informality: The Case of Artisanal Gold Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa, In: SAIS Review33(1)pp. 51-64 Project Muse

This paper offers a new perspective on the origin of informal artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)—the low-tech, labor-intensive extraction and processing of mainly near-surface hard rock and alluvial gold deposits—in rural sub-Saharan Africa. It argues that the conditions that have fueled the sector’s recent rapid growth were brought about by policy changes made by host governments, multilateral organizations, and bilateral agencies. Over the past three decades, these actors have worked in partnership to promote industrial large-scale mineral exploration and excavation activity through increased foreign direct investment, and have simultaneously implemented regulatory frameworks for ASM industries. Previous scholarship has focused on the ASM sector’s sizable environmental footprint, including extensive land degradation and mercury pollution; the sector’s appalling health and safety record; and the many social ills commonly associated with communities where production takes place, such as prostitution and narcotics consumption. This paper will broaden understanding of the sector’s origins through a case study of Ghana’s informal mining economy.

GM Hilson (2012)Fair Trade Gold:Prospects for Africa's Artisanal Miners, In: Business Regulation and Non-State Actors(20) Routledge

This volume assesses the achievements and limitations of a new set of non-state or multistakeholder institutions that are concerned with improving the social and environmental record of business, and holding corporations to account.

This paper outlines a framework for facilitating the formalization of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral processing and extraction – in sub-Saharan Africa. It identifies taxation as a potential driver for formalization across the region because the financial gains would appeal to host governments on the one hand, and, on the other hand, it would energize ASM operators, most of whom are desperate to work in a more structured and regulated environment. Experiences from Zambia, where attempts have been made in recent years to control and regulate pockets of surging gold rush activity, are drawn upon to debate the case for making taxation more of a centrepiece of ASM formalization programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

GM Hilson (2003)Environmental Management in the Small-Scale Mining Industry, In: Journal of Cleaner Production11(2)pp. 91-227
GM Hilson (2012)Poverty Traps in Small-Scale Mining Communities: The Case of Sub-Saharan Africa, In: Canadian Journal of Development Studies33(2)pp. 180-197 Taylor and Francis
GM Hilson, CJ Garforth (2012)'Agricultural Poverty’ and the Expansion of Artisanal Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa: Experiences from Southwest Mali and Southeast Ghana, In: Population Research and Policy Review31(3)pp. 435-464 Springer Verlag

Why do people engage in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)—labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing activity—across sub-Saharan Africa? This paper argues that ‘agricultural poverty’, or hardship induced by an over-dependency on farming for survival, has fuelled the recent rapid expansion of ASM operations throughout the region. The diminished viability of smallholder farming in an era of globalization and overreliance on rain-fed crop production restricted by seasonality has led hundreds of thousands of rural African families to ‘branch out’ into ASM, a move made to secure supplementary incomes. Experiences from Komana West in Southwest Mali and East Akim District in Southeast Ghana are drawn upon to illustrate how a movement into the ASM economy has impacted farm families, economically, in many rural stretches of sub-Saharan Africa

This paper reflects critically on recent actions taken by the Government of Ghana to eliminate unlicensed artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’ – in the country. At a time when donors and other governments in sub-Saharan Africa are working diligently to identify ways to formalize ASM and to integrate the sector into broader economic and rural development frameworks, the Government of Ghana has turned to its military and police to combat illegal activity, at times describing its efforts as a ‘fight’ and the phenomenon itself as ‘a menace’. The decision of the government has come as a surprise, given that ASM accounts for more than 30 percent of the country's gold production, and employs close to one million people directly nationwide and generates millions of more jobs in the upstream and downstream industries it spawns.

Gavin Hilson (2018)Mapping Small‐scale Mineral Production Networks: The Case of Alluvial Diamonds in Ghana, In: Development and Change49(4)pp. 978-1009 Wiley

In recent years, donors and certain governments have committed to formalizing and supporting artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)–lowtech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing. Few, however, are able to do so effectively because of a limited knowledge of how the sector operates, who it employs and where the commodities it mines are being channelled. This article argues that a radical re-conceptualization of ASM will be needed if these challenges are to be overcome. As a starting point, it calls on donors and policymakers to adopt the Global Production Network (GPN) as a ‘lens’ for analyzing the sector’s organizational structures. Popular in geography scholarship, the GPN, though rarely used to study the intricacies of largely-informal sectors such as ASM, could prove valuable here, aiding with the mapping of key production processes. The GPN was applied to Ghana’s artisanal diamond mining sector, research which yielded valuable insight about its organization, the roles played by the different individuals who populate it, and the nature of the relationships between these individuals. This information is a key to designing more robust formalization and support strategies for ASM in the country, and the exercise, overall, provides important lessons for other governments working to achieve similar goals.

This paper contributes to the debate on the link between poverty and artisanal and small‐scale mining (ASM) – low‐tech, labour‐intensive mineral extraction and processing – in sub‐Saharan Africa. It specifically seeks to advance discussion on the idea that throughout the region, the sector’s operators are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Drawing upon ongoing research being conducted on marginalized women engaged in ASM in Ghana, an attempt is made to further nuance the ‘poverty trap‐ASM’ narrative. In the context of sub‐Saharan Africa, debates on this issue should focus on the challenges faced by marginalized groups such as women, in particular how their growing dependence upon monies earned from the sector for their livelihoods has increased their vulnerability.

Gavin Hilson (2018)Why is there a Large-Scale Mining ‘Bias’ in Sub-Saharan Africa?, In: Land Use Policy Elsevier

This paper reflects critically on the state of mining sector-led development in sub-Saharan Africa. It argues that in most countries in the region, policies are ‘biased’ in favour of large-scale extraction. World Bank officials have long maintained that, in sub-Saharan Africa, the large-scale mines financed and operated by foreign multinationals could become ‘growth poles’ which stimulate marked economic development. For this to happen, however, radically different policy approaches will be needed – changes which, up until now, the region’s governments have shown little interest in making.

GM Hilson, R Maconachie (2011)Safeguarding Livelihoods or Exacerbating Poverty?: Artisanal Mining and Formalization in West Africa, In: Natural Resources Forum35(4)pp. 293-303 John Wiley and Sons
Gavin Hilson, Roy Maconachie (2020)Entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa's artisanal and small-scale mining sector: Developments and trajectories, In: Journal of Rural Studies78pp. 149-162 Elsevier

This paper explores how artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral processing and extraction – has evolved in sub-Saharan Africa in recent decades. The analysis focuses specifically on the types of entrepreneurs who pursue work at, and innovation that occurs in, the region's ASM sites, using ideas debated heavily in the management literature, as well as complementary theories and concepts from other disciplines, including development studies, anthropology and human geography. Drawing on findings from ongoing research in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the locations of two of the largest and most complex ASM economies in sub-Saharan Africa, it is argued that legal and policy frameworks implemented for the sector are not aligned with the needs and capabilities of operators, and have therefore impeded efforts to formalize activities. In both countries, these frameworks have created and subsequently galvanized the boundary between two very different ‘worlds’: on the one hand, that of a burgeoning semi-formal artisanal group with limited capacity to mechanize, and on the other hand, that of a small number of individuals who have managed to overcome crippling financial barriers to secure titles to mine using more advanced technology.

GM Hilson (2008)Mining and Rural Development: The Trajectory of Diamond Production in Ghana, In: Artisanal Diamond Mining Academia Pr Scientific Pub

Perspectives and Challenges Koen Vlassenroot, Steven Van Bockstael. here is an integrated program to both inform the local population and provide it with some legal advice and means to defend its own (land)rights, to urge the government ...

GM Hilson, R Maconachie (2009)The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative: Panacea or White Elephant for Sub-Saharan Africa?, In: Mining, Society, and a Sustainable World Springer

This is the first book of peer-reviewed, edited papers that examines the broad subject of the minerals industry in relation to sustainable development.

Gavin Hilson, Abigail Hilson, Agatha Siwale, Roy Maconachie (2018)Female faces in informal ‘spaces’: Women and artisanal and small-scale mining in sub-Saharan Africa, In: Africa Journal of Management4(3)pp. 306-346 Taylor & Francis

This paper critically examines how women employed in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)–low-tech mineral extraction and processing–in sub-Saharan Africa could be affected by moves made to formalize and support their activities under the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), ‘Africa’s own response to tackling the paradox of great mineral wealth existing side by side with pervasive poverty’. One of the main goals of the AMV is Boosting Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, which requires signatories to devise strategies for ‘Harnessing the potential of small scale mining to improve rural livelihoods and integration into the rural and national economy’. Moves being made to achieve this, however, could have an adverse impact on many of the women working in ASM in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings from the literature and research being undertaken by the authors in Sierra Leone and Zambia suggest that whilst most women engaged in ASM in the region work informally and as a result, face very challenging circumstances daily, many have adapted to their surroundings and now generate far more money than they would earn from any other income-earning activity. Governments must study these dynamics before taking action under the auspices of the AMV to formalize and support women in ASM.

GM Hilson (2016)Farming, small-scale mining and rural livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa: A critical overview, In: Extractive Industries and Society3(2)pp. 547-563 Elsevier

This paper reviews the literature on the linkages between subsistence agriculture and artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)—low-tech mineral extraction and processing—in Sub-Saharan Africa. It focuses specifically on the economic impact of this symbiosis on the region’s rural households and the policy treatment of this very important phenomenon. As ASM has long been perceived as a nuisance, and a sector populated mostly by rogue entrepreneurs and therefore not seen to be particularly integral to regional economic development and poverty alleviation plans/strategies, donors and policymakers have, understandably, been reluctant to embrace this idea completely. The review seeks to stimulate a critical ‘rethink’ of ASM in Sub-Saharan Africa: the alleviation of poverty in rural Sub-Saharan Africa could hinge on recognizing and strengthening the bonds between the sector’s activities and subsistence farming. For this to happen, however, a radical change in policy ‘mind-set’ is needed. This is a necessary first step toward facilitating the overhaul of a policy and regulatory framework that, to date, has stifled the legalization of ASM in Sub-Saharan Africa, and which has consequently confined the sector’s activities to informal ‘spaces’.

G Hilson, N Yakovleva (2007)Strained relations: A critical analysis of the mining conflict in Prestea, Ghana, In: Political Geography26(1)pp. 98-119

This paper examines the dynamics of the ongoing conflict in Prestea, Ghana, where indigenous galamsey mining groups are operating illegally on a concession awarded to Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL), property of the Canadian-listed multinational Gold Star Resources. Despite being issued firm orders by the authorities to abandon their activities, galamsey leaders maintain that they are working areas of the concession that are of little interest to the company; they further counter that there are few alternative sources of local employment, which is why they are mining in the first place. Whilst the Ghanaian Government is in the process of setting aside plots to relocate illegal mining parties and is developing alternative livelihood projects, efforts are far from encouraging: in addition to a series of overlooked logistical problems, the areas earmarked for relocation have not yet been prospected to ascertain gold content, and the alternative income-earning activities identified are inappropriate. As has been the case throughout mineral-rich sub-Saharan Africa, the conflict in Prestea has come about largely because the national mining sector reform program, which prioritizes the expansion of predominantly foreign-controlled large-scale projects, has neglected the concerns of indigenous subsistence groups. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

G Hilson, N Yakovleva, SM Banchirigah (2007)'To move or not to move': Reflections on the resettlement of artisanal miners in the Western Region of Ghana, In: African Affairs106(424)pp. 413-436

This article critically reflects upon the shortcomings of the 'Prestea Action Plan', an ambitious initiative undertaken to facilitate the resettlement of artisanal miners operating in the Western Region of Ghana. The aim of the exercise was to identify viable areas for the thousands of operators who were working illegally in the town of Prestea, an area under concession to the US-based multinational, Golden Star Resources Ltd. At the time of its launch, it was one of the few support initiatives to target artisanal miners, whose claims to land are generally not recognized by governments. It was a particularly significant exercise in Ghana because it suggested that the authorities, who traditionally have exercised a policy of non-negotiation with such groups, had finally recognized that dialogue was needed if the growing rift between the country's indigenous artisanal miners, foreign mining companies and government bodies was to be bridged. It soon emerged, however, that despite its commendable policy objectives, the Plan was fundamentally flawed - problems which would undermine the entire exercise. © The Author [2007].

Gavin Hilson, R Maconachie (2017)Formalizing Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: Insights, Contestations and Clarifications, In: Area49(4)pp. 443-451 Wiley

In recent years, a number of academic analyses have emerged which reflect critically on why most artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) activities–low tech, labour-intensive, mineral extraction and processing– occur in informal ‘spaces’. This body of scholarship, however, is heavily disconnected from work being carried out by policymakers and donors who, recognizing the growing economic importance of ASM in numerous rural sections of the developing world, are now working to identify ways in which to facilitate the formalization of its activities. It has rather drawn mostly on theories of informality that have been developed around radically different, and in many cases, incomparable, experiences, as well as largely redundant ideas, to contextualize phenomena in the sector. This paper reflects critically on the implications of this widening gulf, with the aim of facilitating a better alignment of scholarly debates on ASM’s informality with overarching policy/donor objectives. The divide must be reconciled if the case for formalizing ASM is to be strengthened, and policy is to be reformulated to reflect more accurately the many dimensions of the sector’s operations.

Gavin Hilson, T Laing (2017)Gold Mining, Indigenous Land Claims and Conflict in Guyana’s Hinterland, In: Journal of Rural Studies50pp. 172-187 Elsevier

In recent decades, Guyana’s gold-rich interior has been the location of numerous, mostly low-latent, conflicts. In each case, groups of Afro and Indo-Guyanese originating from the country’s coastal cities and towns – popularly referred to as ‘Coast Landers’ – have clashed with indigenous Amerindians over control of remote parcels of land containing gold deposits. Each appears to have a valid argument in support of its position: the former contend that they are legally entitled to work these lands, having obtained the requisite permits from the central government to mine for gold, whilst the latter maintain that such decisions constitute a breach of their human rights, and draw attention to key legislation in support of their case. This article broadens understanding of the dynamics of these conflicts by reflecting more critically on the arguments presented by both parties. Drawing heavily on research conducted in Mahdia-Campbelltown, one location where frictions between Coast Lander mining groups and Amerindians are particularly serious, it is argued that these disputes are not about control of gold riches as is popularly believed but rather a product of deeply-rooted ethnic tensions between these parties.

Gavin Hilson, Richard Amankwah, Grace Ofori-Sarpong (2013)Going for Gold: Transitional Livelihoods in Northern Ghana, In: Journal of Modern African Studies51(1)pp. 109-137 Cambridge Journals

This article critically reflects on what impact a supported and formalized artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector could have in Northern Ghana, where poverty is deeply-rooted, the outcome of decades of government neglect. Since country independence in 1957, numerous attempts have been made to improve the living standards of the populations in the country’s North but deteriorated human resource bases and shortages of infrastructure have limited their effectiveness. A recent upsurge in ASM activity, however, has catapulted the region on to another – previously unimaginable – growth trajectory entirely. As findings from research carried out in the township of Kui in Bole District of the country’s Northern Region illustrate, ASM has injected considerable wealth into many of Ghana’s Northern localities, in the process, helping to stabilize their economies and in the process, alleviating the hardships of tens of thousands of farm-dependent families. The intensification of support to, and the formalization of, ASM, could prove to be an important step toward eradicating a poverty problem that has plagued this region of sub-Saharan Africa for more than a century.

Over the past decade, sales of Fair Trade agro-products have risen sharply, fuelled by innovative marketing campaigns that use imagery to ‘connect’ Western consumers to impoverished farmers in developing countries. The success of Fair Trade has led to speculation over whether its portfolio could be broadened to include non-agricultural products, a debate which, in recent years, has focused heavily on the precious minerals and stones being extracted by impoverished artisans. A lack of policy oversight, however, has resulted in Fair Trade being interpreted very differently in this context. In the absence of certified internationally-recognized guidelines to consult for assistance with the implementation of Fair Trade mineral schemes, designers have drawn inspiration from a global mining development agenda that has become heavily preoccupied with anti-corruption and traceability. This paper draws on the case of Malawi’s NyalaTM ruby, described as a ‘Fair Trade Gem’ by its supplier, to illustrate how ethical mineral programmes are potentially being misbranded as Fair Trade. Although the scheme delivering NyalaTM ruby to markets is supplying a traceable commodity, in the process helping to alleviate consumers’ concerns about conflict minerals, it seems to be providing very little benefit to poor producers — the primary objective of Fair Trade

Gavin Hilson (2020)The Africa Mining Vision: a manifesto for more inclusive extractive industry-led development?, In: Revue Canadienne d'études du développement41(3)pp. 417-431 Routledge

This paper introduces a special section of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies, "The Africa Mining Vision: A Manifesto for More Inclusive Extractive Industry-Led Development?" Conceived by African ministers "in charge of mineral resources" with inputs and guidance from African Union Heads of State, the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) was officially launched in February 2009. The papers presented in this special section reflect critically on progress that has since been made with operationalising the AMV at the country level across Africa; the general shortcomings of the manifesto; and the challenges that must be overcome if the continent is to derive greater economic benefit from its abundant mineral wealth.

GAVIN MICHAEL HILSON, TITUS JAN SAUERWEIN, Estrela Cardoso (2021)Small-Scale Mining, Rural Resilience and the Sustainable Development Goals in Sub-Saharan Africa, In: Handbook of Sustainable Politics and Economics of Natural Resources Edward Elgar Publishing

This chapter strengthens the case for formalizing and supporting artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing – in sub-Saharan Africa by focusing on how the sector enhances food security and builds resilience in the region’s vulnerable rural communities. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, there is a long history of ASM and smallholder activity dovetailing one other, the former generating income which helps to sustain the latter. Rarely have these synergies been recognized in policy, however, because most ASM activities in the region are entrenched in the informal economy. The policy frameworks and laws now in place for ASM in sub-Saharan Africa are largely inappropriate and have tended to stifle, as opposed to facilitate, the sector’s formalization. Showcasing the sector’s contribution to food security and rural resilience, themes which map directly on to the Sustainable Development Goals, could stimulate a much-needed critical rethink of these regulatory apparatuses, with the goal of laying the groundwork for more effective formalization strategies. It would, at a minimum, change the narrative about ASM in sub-Saharan Africa altogether, helping to finally cement the sector’s position on the region’s development agenda.

Gavin Hilson, Alvina Gillani, Smirti Kutaula (2018)Towards Sustainable Pro-Poor Development? A Critical Assessment of Fair Trade Gold, In: Journal of Cleaner Production186pp. 894-904 Elsevier Ltd

This paper reflects critically on the progress made towards implementing Fair Trade gold programs capable of empowering subsistence artisanal miners in developing countries. Drawing on interviews with ‘ethical’ jewellers and officials at certification bodies, the very parties which have conceived and are ultimately driving these initiatives, it is argued that despite being projected as ‘pro-poor’, schemes are not empowering, nor in many cases even targeting, impoverished mining groups. Further analysis reveals that officials at certification bodies are chiefly responsible for this. Many have used stories of poor miners to engage ‘ethical’ jewellers enamoured with the idea of potentially alleviating poverty in developing countries through purchasing gold that can also be traced to the source. The case study reinforces claims that what constitutes ‘fair’ differs markedly throughout the supply chain. •Reflects critically on recent developments made to bring Fair Trade gold to market.•Surveys the views of jewellers and certification bodies on the impact of Fair Trade gold.•Surveys the views of jewellers and certification - bodies on the challenges with empowering small-scale gold miners.•Reveals that the story being told to customers purchasing jewellery is very different to the reality.•Offers explanations for why this is the case.

Gavin Hilson, Steven Van Bockstael, Titus Sauerwein, Abigail Hilson, James McQuilken (2020)Artisanal and small-scale mining, and COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa: A preliminary analysis, In: World Development139105315 Elsevier

This article offers preliminary reflections on the potential impact of COVID-19 on artisanal and smallscale mining (ASM) activities – low-tech, labor-intensive mineral extraction and processing – in subSaharan Africa. In doing so, it revisits the core ideas put forward in the literature in support of showcasing the sector more prominently in the region’s rural development strategies. For decades, scholars have been gathering evidence that points to ASM being the most important rural nonfarm activity in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as how, in providing a supplementary source of income, the sector helps millions of the region’s impoverished farm-dependent families cope with unexpected economic stresses and shocks. Sub-Saharan Africa has managed to avoid high numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths thus far but it has already felt the economic impacts of the pandemic, perhaps nowhere more than in its remote rural areas, which are already poverty-stricken and produce food at mostly subsistence levels. Intensifying support for ASM, an economic activity which again, many rural Africans are already involved in and familiar with the benefits it provides, in rural development and adaptation plans linked to COVID19, should be prioritized by the region’s governments and donors. Findings from ongoing research in Mali, Liberia and Ghana – the locations of three of the largest and most dynamic ASM economies in sub-Saharan Africa – reveal that despite its proven ability to stabilize and catalyze development in the region’s rural economies, that even this sector has been affected by COVID-19. They more importantly shed light on how the pandemic has impacted ASM-dependent communities, and importantly, offer clues on how to make the sector more robust and better position it to steer rural communities through the crisis.

Gavin Hilson, Titus Sauerwein, John Owen (2020)Large and artisanal scale mine development: The case for autonomous co-existence, In: World Development Elsevier
Gavin Hilson, Halima Goumandakoye, Penda Diallo (2019)Formalizing Artisanal Mining ‘Spaces’ in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Niger, In: Land Use Policy80pp. 259-268 Elsevier

This paper contributes to the debate on the dynamics and impact of informal artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral processing and extraction – in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on the case of Niger. The analysis draws on findings from interviews carried out with government officials in Niger's capital, Niamey, and artisanal miners in two of the country’s major artisanal gold-producing localities, Komabangou and M’Banga. Since it has gone virtually unexamined in the literature, Niger provides fresh perspectives on ASM’s informality in sub-Saharan Africa, a discussion which is rapidly gathering momentum in the region’s donor and development dialogues. Most of the moves taken to date to formalize and support ASM in the country have focused on the technical and financial aspects of the sector’s activities: emphasis has been placed on controlling the activity ad hoc, rather than proactively engaging and supporting operators.

GM Hilson, MJ Clifford (2010)Small-Scale Gold Mining, the Environment and Human Health: An Introduction to the Ghana Case, In: International Journal of Environment and Pollution41(3-4)pp. 185-194 Inderscience Publishers
GM Hilson (2010)Challenges with Eradicating Child Labour in the Artisanal Mining Sector: Experiences from Northern Ghana, In: Journal of Community Practice: organizing, planning, development and change41(3)pp. 445-473 Wiley
GM Hilson, SM Banchirigah (2010)De-Agrarianization, Re-Agrarianization and Local Economic Development: Re-Orienting Livelihoods in African Artisanal Mining Communities, In: Policy Sciences: an international journal devoted to the improvement of policy making43(2)pp. 157-180 SpringerLink
GM Hilson, A Ackah-Baidoo (2011)Can Microcredit Services Alleviate Hardship in African Small-Scale Mining Communities, In: World Development39(7)pp. 1191-1203 Elsevier

This paper critically examines the challenges with implementing microcreditservices for small-scale mine operators—individuals engaged in labor-intensive mineral extraction and/or processing using low-tech methods—in sub-Saharan Africa. The region’s policymakers have shied away from launching microcredit programs for small-scalemining, frustrated by the disappointing results of the past and unsure about how to proceed with implementation. Recent efforts to provide microcreditservices for operators in Talensi-Nabdam District, Northern Ghana, however, illustrate how with a renewed level of commitment and the development of blueprints which adequately address the appropriate criteria, fairly robust schemes can be launched.

GM Hilson, P Kamlongera (2011)Poverty Alleviation in rural Malawi: Is There a Role for Artisanal Mining?, In: Journal of Eastern African Studies5(1)pp. 42-69 Taylor & Francis
GM Hilson, R Maconachie (2011)Artisanal Gold Mining: A New Frontier in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone?, In: Journal of Development Studies47(4)pp. 595-616 Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

This paper argues that a formalised small-scale gold mining sector could ameliorate Sierra Leone's emerging ‘crisis of youth’. Burgeoning pockets of unemployed young men now found scattered throughout the country, the mobilisation of whom proved instrumental in prolonging civil war in the 1990s, have fuelled fresh concerns about renewed violence. If supported, small-scale gold mining could provide immediate economic relief in the form of direct employment and downstream activities. Its promotion, however, is contingent upon a radical change in mindset in policymaking circles. Gold mining continues to be associated with diamond mining, an industry which perpetuated the country's civil war.

This article reflects critically on the impacts of the recent ban on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing – in Ghana. Government officials claimed that a ban was necessary because the country’s ASM activities, most of which are found in the informal economy, pose a serious threat to local waterbodies and that security forces were needed for its enforcement. It is argued here, however, that projecting the ban and associated military intervention as actions taken specifically to protect the environment has helped the government escape scrutiny over its choice of strategy to combat illegal mining. Perhaps more importantly, it has masked what may be the real reasons behind these moves: 1) to help the government regain control of the purchasing side of an ASM sector that is now heavily populated and influenced by foreigners; and 2) to put it in an improved position to demarcate parcels of land to the multinational mineral exploration and mining companies that supply it with significant quantities of revenue in the form of taxes, royalties and permit fees.

An in-depth analysis of the small-scale mining sector in West Africa, this volume examines its link with poverty, economic contribution and the dynamics of its operations and dependent communities.

Gavin Hilson, A Hilson, R Maconachie (2017)Opportunity or necessity? Conceptualizing entrepreneurship at African small-scale mines, In: Technological Forecasting and Social Change131pp. 286-302 Elsevier

This article critically examines the policy environment in place for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing – in sub-Saharan Africa, with a view to determining whether there is adequate ‘space’ for the sector's operators to flourish as entrepreneurs. In recent years, there has been growing attention paid to ASM in the region, particularly as a vehicle for stimulating local economic development. The work being planned under the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), a comprehensive policy agenda adopted by African heads of state in February 2009, could have an enormous impact on this front. One of its core objectives is to pressure host governments into Boosting Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining by following a series of streamlined recommendations. It is concluded, however, that there is a disconnect between how entrepreneurship in ASM has been interpreted and projected by proponents of the AMV on the one hand, and the form it has mostly taken in practice on the other hand. This gulf must be rapidly bridged if ASM is to have a transformative impact, economically, in the region.

R Maconachie, G Hilson (2013)Editorial introduction: the extractive industries, community development and livelihood change in developing countries, In: COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT JOURNAL48(3)pp. 347-359 OXFORD UNIV PRESS
M Hirons, G Hilson, A Asase, ME Hodson (2014)Mining in a changing climate: what scope for forestry-based legacies?, In: JOURNAL OF CLEANER PRODUCTION84pp. 430-438 ELSEVIER SCI LTD
GM Hilson, MJ Clifford (2010)Small-Scale Mining, Mercury and Environmental Health: Challenges and Ways Forward in Rural Ghana, In: The International Journal of Environment and Pollution41(3-4)pp. 185-325
Abigail Hilson, Gavin Hilson, Suleman Dauda (2019)Corporate Social Responsibility at African mines: Linking the past to the present, In: Journal of Environmental Management241pp. 340-352 Elsevier

This paper traces the origins of the 'brand' of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) employed at large-scale mines across sub-Saharan Africa. Conceived within fortified resource enclaves, the policies adopted and actions taken in the area of CSR at many of the region's large-scale mines today have had had minimal effect on community wellbeing. Further examination reveals that contemporary CSR strategy in the region's mining sector is often a 'repackaging' and 'rebranding' of moves made by major operators during the colonial period and early years of country independence to pacify and engage local communities. Today, this work is being championed as CSR but failing to deliver much change, its impact minimized by the economic and political forces at work in an era of globalization, during which extractive industry enclaves that are disconnected from local economies have been able to flourish. As case study of Ghana, long one of the largest gold mining economies in sub-Saharan Africa, is used to illustrate these points.

GM Hilson (2011)Artisanal Mining, Smallholder Farming and Livelihood Diversification in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa, In: The Journal of International Development23(8)pp. 1031-1150 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
GM Hilson, E Maconachie (2009)Good Governance and the Extractive Industries in Sub-Saharan Africa, In: Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review30(1)pp. 52-100 Taylor and Francis
GM Hilson, SM Banchirigah (2009)Are Alternate Livelihood Projects Alleviating Poverty in Mining Communities? Experiences from Ghana, In: Journal of Development Studies45(2)pp. 172-196 Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
GM Hilson, J Carstens (2009)Mining, Grievance and Conflict in Rural Tanzania, In: International Development Planning Review31(3)pp. 301-326 Liverpool University Press