Disentangling Mining and Migratory Routes in West Africa: Decisions to Move in Migranticised Settings

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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Disentangling Mining and Migratory Routes in West Africa: Decisions to Move in Migranticised Settings


  • Matthieu Bolay Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland


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Abstract:  This article scrutinizes the trajectories of African men whose cross-border movements intersect two types of mobility routes: mining and migration routes. Drawing on field research in Mali and Guinea, as well as phone interviews with male miners/migrants in North Africa and Europe, this article provides a case to empirically question some of the premises in the approach to migration decision-making by giving a voice to African men moving across borders who do not necessarily identify as (prospective) ‘migrants.’ Building upon International Organization for Migration data and secondary sources, this article starts by sketching where migration and mining routes overlap. It then examines, in detail, the mobility trajectories of men who were sometimes considered migrants and other times miners in order to identify how these different routes relate to one another. While overseas migration is certainly not a common project for itinerant miners, the gold mines constitute a transnational space that fosters the expansion of movements across the continent, including outside the field of mining. Rather than encouraging overseas migration, gold mines appear to be more of a safety net, not only for seasonal farmers or young people in search of money and adventure, but also, increasingly, for people who are confronted with Europe’s intra-African deportation regime.

Keywords:  artisanal and small-scale mining; border regime; Guinea; Mali; migration; mobility; North Africa; West Africa

Published:   25 March 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i1.3715


© Matthieu Bolay. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.