The expansion of artisanal gold mining has contributed to agrarian change in most of the global South—including West Africa: the sector offers interesting examples of technological and socio‐economic change, reflecting broader dynamics in the political economy of mining. In this article, we rely on our multisited ethnography to show how innovations in gold processing—particularly, the shift from mercury‐based to cyanide‐based techniques—reconfigured power relations and organizational patterns in the artisanal mining sector in Burkina Faso. We show that, in the context of structural transformations and pressure from powerful actors, the mechanisms of value creation, the definition of property rights and the relations of production remained open for negotiation and redefinition. Bringing attention to new scenarios opened by the shift to cyanide for processing gold—a transformative factor in many gold mining areas across the world—our analysis contributes to a broader reflection on the nexus between the trajectories of sociotechnical innovation and the ongoing power struggles in the informal economies of resource extraction.
Read the full paper Open Access at: https://doi.org/10.1111/joac.12412