“The GIFF Project partners – the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime and Levin Sources – are proud to release the culmination of many months of discussion and research: Follow the Money: Financial Flows linked to Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining and the accompanying case study Follow the Money: Financial Flows linked to Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Sierra Leone. We look forward to seeing what advances can be made through application of the handbook’s tools now that it is ready to use! Do keep in touch and tell us if/how you use it, what you found, and what impact this had on realising your goals.”

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has largely been dismissed as an economically insigni cant, subsis- tence based activity in Sierra Leone.  However, an investigation into the sector reveals that Sierra Leone’s ASGM sector is active, vibrant, and generating significant economic value.

However, most of Sierra Leone’s gold never enters the formal supply chains within its borders. Rather, gold is mined, bought, sold and exported through informal networks that only occasionally and selectively intersect with formal supply and value chains prior to crossing the border. Consequently, the country records minimal gold exports and the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) reaps little benefit from the gold sector through formal channels of taxation.

Our investigation reveals that Sierra Leone’s ASGM sector is generating significant economic value. However, gold is mined, bought, sold and exported through informal networks that only occasionally and selectively intersect with formal supply and value chains prior to crossing the border. The informality of Sierra Leone’s gold sector is perpetuated and exacerbated by downstream IFFs.

IFFs are paradoxically dualistic. On the one hand, IFFs linked to ASGM serve a critical economic function, fuelling an informal sector which plays an important role in poverty alleviation and economic development in Sierra Leone. On the other hand, IFFs are facilitating complicated layers of exploitation and victimisation by opportunistic actors along the value chain. Upstream actors who engage in IFFs tend to reinvest profits, thus perpetuating supply chains and financial relationships reliant on informal and illicit activity at all levels.

Any attempt to formalise Sierra Leone’s ASGM sector must acknowledge the complex nature and impacts of IFFs if they are to hope to be successful without further marginalizing vulnerable populations.



  • Develop interventions which look beyond the mine site;
  • Make a better offer: interventions need to identify ways to create a positive business environment and incentivise to draw ASGM stakeholders into the formal sector and engage with formalisation efforts;
  • Make financing options available generally and to ASGM operators;
  • Engage in efforts to standardise regional tariff rates; and
  • Conduct further investigations.

Financial Flows linked to Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Sierra Leone

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Marcena Hunter

Marcena is a Senior Analyst at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, which she has been with since 2012. Marcena provides research for a number of Global Initiatives projects, analysing a diverse range of organized crime flows, including illicit financial flows, and developing responses. While her work covers a wide scope of material and geographic spread, her current work has focused on gold-related crime and development responses to organized crime. Marcena previously worked with STATT, a boutique global consulting firm, where she analysed migration flows and guided security sector and criminal justice reform. Her past work also includes projects improving access to justice, analysing gender issues, and supporting the Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking at the UNODC. Marcena has a JD from Washington and Lee University, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Denver. She is currently based in Queensland, Australia.

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Estelle Levin-Nally

Estelle Levin-Nally is the Founder and Director of Levin Sources. She founded the company in 2010 as a catalyst to facilitate better business and good governance in the mineral sector. Estelle has convened a team of experts and specialists with whom she has developed service propositions that solve complex problems and add value for communities, stakeholders and shareholders around the world.

Estelle leads the company’s Better Business and Impact & Innovation divisions. With more than 14 years’ experience in supply chain due diligence, conflict-affected and high risk areas, conservation, and raw materials, she is well-positioned to deliver bespoke, discrete and innovative solutions to some of the world’s most high-profile brands.

Estelle is an internationally recognised leader in artisanal and small-scale mining and responsible sourcing. She has spoken at high profile events and conferences around the world and has been an expert participant in a number of panels and knowledge sharing initiatives.

As a Team Lead, Estelle manages projects with a focus on client requirements alignment, rigorous methodological approaches, opportunity identification and quality control. Her solutions are both context-sensitive and commercially astute.

Estelle has been instrumental in the founding and technical implementation of a series of programmes that develop innovative toolkits and strategies to address issues surrounding artisanal and small-scale mining. In 2016, Estelle developed The GIFF Project: an initiative to deepen the understanding of illicit financial flows linked to artisanal and small-scale gold mining, in collaboration with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime. The tools developed by the initiative have been applied in Sierra Leone and Ghana.

In 2010, Estelle developed the ASM-PACE initiative in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) to address artisanal and small-scale mining in protected areas and critical ecosystems. The resulting programme focused on building stakeholder knowledge and capacity for tackling issues with a focus on human rights, corruption, security and governance. The tools developed are now part of another Levin Sources-pioneered project: BEST-ASM.

Estelle has a Master’s degree in Geography, with a focus on sustainable development, natural resources, conflict minerals, climate change and CSR, from the University of British Columbia. She also holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Edinburg.

Estelle works in English, French, and Spanish. She is based at Levin Sources, Cambridge, UK.

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