Elites gain by criminalizing andimpoverishing informal miners


Photo: Estacio Valoi


"There is a stark contrast between the experiences of the garimpeiros, negotiating a corrupt system that can turn brutal, and the Mozambican political elite tightening control of natural resources amid a violent insurgency," reports the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) in its Risk Bulletin for Eastern and Southern Africa (26 Oct, https://globalinitiative.net/analysis/esaobs-risk-bulletin-21/) "Informal mining is a large part of the local economy in northern Mozambique, a region with exceptionally high levels of poverty and few legitimate economic opportunities."

"informal miners in Mozambique bear the brunt of criminalization while elites seize more control of mining concessions." Much of informal mining "is illegal, either because it is unlicensed - following the Mozambican government’s introduction of compulsory mining licences in 2016 for artisanal miners - or because it takes place in protected areas or private mining concessions owned by large-scale mining companies," Risk Bulletin notes. "Pushing informal mining into the illegal sphere means that these miners - typically referred to as garimpeiros - have to operate clandestinely and often negotiate with corrupt security forces for access to mining areas. Their precarious and criminalized position also puts them at risk of abuse from security forces. " "Clashes with informal miners are framed as an issue of criminality, [but] mining in northern Mozambique is much more complex. It is an issue of justice and land rights over the richest resources available in a deeply impoverished region. It is also an economic issue, because mining - even while risky and criminalized - is one of the few livelihood opportunities available in the region."

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