To meet the rising demand for minerals, mining companies have ventured into fragile areas, often at the expense of artisanal miners. This has led to grievances, and at times violence. Over the past decade, I studied the mining sector in Eastern DR Congo, focusing on interactions between artisanal and industrial mining, as well as differences across these production modes in terms of linkages with local livelihoods and violence.

I have explored temporal variations, relying on geo-referenced data on mining sites and conflict events. One paper exploits variation in international mineral prices and the granting of industrial mining concessions to investigate how artisanal and industrial mining are related to conflict. Another paper evaluates the impact of a US policy measure that intended to break the link between conflict and minerals in the DRC. We find that the policy backfired, leading to an increase in conflict.

Industrial mining concessions and official artisanal mining zones in Eastern DRC in 2015, based on CAMI data. See here for details.

Artisanal miners in Eastern DRC

Other work relies on a case study of a mining site where artisanal and industrial mining coincides. In one paper we study the legal framework and how the interaction between both actors plays out in the field. We also collected survey data from a stratified random sample of 469 artisanal miners who were about to be evicted by an industrial mining company. We use these data to study artisanal miners’ livelihoods and to investigate who would turn to violence, and which policy measures could appease would-be-fighters.

The above work entails concrete lessons for mining policies and was picked up by international organisations and policymakers. I have been invited by the OECD and the US Government Accountability Office to discuss conflict minerals legislation.

I have also studied linkages between natural resource degradation, overfishing and income diversification among artisanal fishing communities in Benin; and I analysed self-reported food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa during a period when global food prices increased dramatically.

“Would you fight? We asked aggrieved artisanal miners in Eastern Congo”. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2021.
With M. Verpoorten. link PDF replication media: Political Violence at a Glance ; Peace Science Digest

“How much do artisanal miners earn? An inquiry among Congolese gold miners”. Resources Policy, 2021. 
With S. Geenen and M. Verpoorten link PDF survey survey instruments media: blog

“Risk, envy and magic in DRC’s artisanal mining sector: insights into the ‘Modernity of Witchcraft'”. Development and Change, 2020.
With M. Verpoorten. link PDF media: blog

“Artisanal or Industrial Conflict Minerals? Evidence from Eastern Congo”. World Development, 2019
With M. Verpoorten and P. van der Windt. link PDF replication media: The Conversation; Political Violence at a Glancepolicy brief

“More legislation, more violence? The impact of Dodd-Frank in the DRC”. PLOS ONE, 2018. 
With M. Verpoorten and P. van der Windt. link replication media: Washington Post; Political Violence at a Glancepolicy briefPERC

“Defusing the social minefield of gold sites in Kamituga, South Kivu. From legal pluralism to the re-making of institutions?”. Resources Policy, 2017. With K. Buraye and M. Verpoorten. link PDF media: policy brief

“To fish or not to fish? Resource degradation and income diversification in Benin”. Environment and Development Economics, 2016. 
With R. Houssa and M. Verpoorten. link PDF

“Self-reported food insecurity in Africa during the food price crisis”. Food Policy, 2013. 
With M. Verpoorten, A. Abimanju and J. Swinnen. link PDF

Science communication

“Van mijnen in Oost-Congo naar technologie in je smartphone.” video for the University of Antwerp’s Kinderuniversiteit – 2021
Science communication to children aged 8-12. With S. Geenen

“Conflict Minerals Legislation: Shooting at the Wrong Target … Again.” Political Violence at a Glance, 2021.
With M. Verpoorten. link

“Covid-19 vs. Ebola: High stakes for Eastern DRC” IOB Blog, 2020.
With S. Desbureaux, A. Kaota, E. Lunanga, and M. Verpoorten. link French version

“Artisanal gold mining pays” IOB Blog, 2020.
With S. Geenen and M. Verpoorten. link

“The super-natural is super-rational” IOB Blog, 2020.
With M. Verpoorten link

“The way that minerals are mined affects conflict in eastern Congo”. The Conversation, 2019.
With M. Verpoorten and P. van der Windt. link

“Artisanal or Industrial Conflict Minerals?” IOB Policy Brief 39, 2019.
With M. Verpoorten and P. van der Windt. link

“Trump threatened to suspend the ‘conflict minerals’ provision of Dodd-Frank. That might actually be good for Congo”. Washington Post – The Monkey Cage, 2018. With M. Verpoorten and P. van der Windt. link

“Relocation, reorientation, or confrontation? Insights from a representative study among artisanal miners in Kamituga, South-Kivu”. IOB Working Paper 9, 2016. With M. Verpoorten and K. Buraye. PDF French version

“The social minefield of gold digging in South-Kivu, DRC: the case of Kamituga”. IOB Policy Brief 10, 2015
With Kilosho Buraye and Marijke Verpoorten. PDF

“The social minefield of gold digging in Kamituga, South-Kivu”. Amani Itakuya II Essay Series, essay 14, 2015.
With K. Buraye and M. Verpoorten. link