This issue of the Risk Bulletin of Illicit Economies in West Africa examines relationships between Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), criminal economies and security in the Central African Republic, northern Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso.


  1. 1. Chad’s largest goldfield, Kouri Bougoudi, is central to regional stabilization efforts.

  2. The Kouri Bougoudi goldfield  has emerged as one of the region’s key sites of illicit activity, including the smuggling and trafficking of weapons, narcotics, fuel, food staples and migrants, in addition to gold. As Chad enters a new era of political uncertainty after the death of long-time president Idriss Déby, any attempts at regional stabilization efforts will have to take into account these criminal economies and the interests of the local community in the gold sector.
  3. 2. As a non-state armed group tightens its grip over resources in western CAR, violence looks likely to escalate.

  4. In CAR, the rebel group referred to as ‘Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation’, or ‘3R’, has evolved from a self-defence militia formed to protect ethnic Fulani herders into a predatory criminal organization with significant criminal interests.
  5. 3. Rise in cyanide-based processing techniques changes criminal dynamics in gold mines in Burkina Faso and Mali.

  6. The costly introduction of cyanide into gold processing, which enables more effective gold extraction, has shifted power dynamics in the sector, disrupting local economies and social hierarchies, and creating social divisions, which jihadist groups in the region have exploited in similar contexts.
  7. 4. Burkina Faso’s Sud-Ouest region risks becoming new zone of insecurity.

  8. Situated at the tri-border area with Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where jihadist groups have made inroads in recent years, Sud-Ouest is one of the most prolific ASGM zones in the country. Amid conflicts between local communities and miners coming to the region in search of gold, authorities have expressed concern that ASGM sites could become flashpoints of violence.

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