Chris Blattman

Ain’t nothing but a gold digger

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I am headed to Liberia this afternoon to check in on two field projects. One works with ex-combatants who are illicitly mining gold or diamonds in the bush, and attempts different strategies to reintegrate them socially and economically.

I went back through my photo archive and thought I’ve give people a sense of gold digging.

This is what a capital-intensive gold digging process looks like:

This is what not very capital-intensive gold digging looks like:

This is an excellent lesson in why capital accumulation is usually a good thing.

Here is what you get for your efforts.

After much pounding and sifting, here is the final stage of refinement:

A little closer:

And here is a slightly different kind of gold digger.

8 Responses

  1. He has got these two mixed up. The first one is human-intensive, non-capital intensive. The second is non human-intensive (not much physical demands) but capital intensive (proper equipment).

  2. Precious stones or gold digging in these regions can be very dangerous…a childhood friend of mine often travelled to Guinea Bissau years ago for Palm Oil Business at the time, I asked him about the rich soil of the region which he confirmed but also warned of the dangers associated with anyone taking possessions of the stones or gold…regardless of whether you were from the area or not, it seems as if locals can get pretty ugly with anyone tampering with the local resources.

    The sad part is that the local populations do not really benefit from their rich soil, only a handful of rebels or isolated gold-diggers/diamond merchants make the most out of these resources.

  3. Chris, what equipment is being used in the first picture other than shovels and sifting implements? I guess I’m just not clear on what the “capital” is aside from the visible shovels and how that is more capital-intensive than the second picture, where shovels were used.

    P.S. how deep is that mine in the second picture?

  4. Chris, can you tell us where these sites are located? Artisanal miners I interviewed in western Liberia were generally not that interested in gold, and saw it as a stepping stone towards diamond mining (or as a byproduct of diamond mining).

    1. Not interested in gold? At current prices? I hear of mini rushes all the time.

      These were from different spots in Gbarpolu and Nimba. I could find the town names if needed.

  5. Hi, I enjoy the posts but did u mix these up? I think you mean to put ‘human intensive’ on the above pic or swap them round?!?

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