Digging with Words
Negotiating Mozambique’s new commodity frontiers from the perspective of a conservationist
By Kate Symons, University of Edinburgh.
[C]onservation is not a priority….. they [Frelimo] want economic growth at any point. So if they find …… coal and gas and other minerals it doesn’t matter where they are found, their priority is to develop those industries and I think they will worry about ecosystems ……. as an afterthought. Right now their main focus is growth, economic growth. (Interview with government official, discussing the governing party’s view of conservation in the context of a resources boom, 14 May 2014).
Politics, says anthropologist James Ferguson, is about getting what you want. And the practice of politics is about engaging particular strategies and discourses – ‘arts of government’ - to achieve particular ends. During fieldwork in 2013 and 2014 in Mozambique, I spent time with conservationists who were increasingly anxious about the country’s resources boom. Extractives-based accumulation is currently intensifying throughout the country, and sites frequently overlap with conservation areas. For example, the Cabo Delgado gas fields lie largely within WWF’s Rovuma Basin Bioreserve. In Niassa National Reserve, widely viewed as one of Mozambique’s most important protected areas, there are rumours of an alteration to the reserve’s boundary in order to permit ruby mining. In the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR), where I spent six months, there has for several years been the threat of a deep-water coal port, with significant ecological consequences for the marine reserve. Continue reading here.
Criminalization and violence in natural resource conflicts in Guatemala
Elisabet Dueholm Rasch, Wageningen University and Research
July 4, 2012 (Santa Cruz el Quiché). The CPK (K'iche Peoples Council) is attacked by armed individuals during a peaceful manifestation, saying they are looking for Lolita Chávez, environmental human rights activist.
September 18, 2015 (Sayaché, Petén). Rigoberto Lima Choc, environmental activist, is shot dead in front of local court house.
July 22, 2016 (Guatemala City). Seven ancestral authorities from Santa Eulalia who were detained because of their advocacy against two electric power dams in their community, are released from prison after sixteen months of detention. Continue reading here.
Australian gas: between a fracked rock and a socially hard place
Australia´s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s response to the looming east coast gas shortage has been to secure a promise from gas producers to increase domestic supply.
In a televised press conference last month, he said:
We must continue the pressure on state and territory governments to revisit the restrictions on gas development and exploration.
But if an onshore gas boom is indeed in the offing, my research suggests that gas companies should tread carefully and take more seriously the social context of their operations. Continue reading here.
The Philippine mining clampdown that wasn´t
By Boris Verbrugge, Radbout Universiteit
On February 2, 2017, Philippine Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who has the full backing of the country’s controversial president Duterte, announced the closure of 23 large-scale mining operations. Two weeks later, on February 14, she announced the cancellation of 75 large-scale mining contracts, as a “valentine’s gift to the people”. These decisions followed a 6-month long environmental audit, which revealed that these operations were in severe violation of environmental laws. This, in itself, should not come as a surprise in a country that is infamous for its stringent laws, and for its inability – or unwillingness – to enforce them. What is surprising is that this administration seems hell-bent on enforcing the law, with the risk of alienating powerful domestic and foreign mining interests. So, how to make sense of this seemingly dramatic turn of events? Continue reading here.
Paradise – a living hell: mining, power and dispossession
By Hedda Askland, The University of Newcastle
The sun was glittering on the Goulbourn River. The cicadas were loudly calling in the 40 degrees heat. The constant hum of their mating song intertwined with the sound of my two sons, trying to cool down in the lukewarm water. Looking upstream, Paul (a pseudonym) sighed. ‘There never used to be water in the river on days like today. The river would be dry during summer. Now, the mines are discharging over 19 megaliters per day! The water is clean enough but there’s just too much of it. The mine manager says “its just water” and, whilst one part of me agrees the other disagrees. It’s not just water. The river has changed, the flow has changed. Nothing is the same.’ Continue reading here.
The creation of a “lessons learned place” – Notes on doing research in the coal mine area of Tete, Mozambique
By Nikkie Wiegink, Utrecht University
“More studies, more studies! Ok, it is necessary to do those studies, but to what end?!” Carlos (a pseudonym) was furious. It is October 2016 and one of my first discussions with Carlos in which I ask him about his opinion on a critical report of Oxfam on the living conditions in Mualadzi, a resettlement area where 736 households have been relocated for a coal mine of the Australian company Rio Tinto (later taken over by an Indian consortium called ICVL) in Moatize, Tete province Mozambique. Continue to read here.
Why aren`t you more angry? Fossil Fuels and Community Life on Mexico’s Gulf Coast
By Svenja Schöneich, GIGA
When starting fieldwork in the Emiliano Zapata community in the state of Veracruz, Mexico in 2016, I was mainly interested in conflicts about hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking” - the practice of fracturing the subterranean rock deep below the surface to extract oil and/or gas. Fracking has been a topic of concern in Mexico since the approval of a series of constitutional amendments in December 2013 known as the Mexican Energy Reform. This reform, which enabled foreign investments in oil and gas exploration and production, led to a growing number of fracking projects in the country. However, the last decade has seen more and more conflicts related to fracking, especially regarding its environmental impacts (Ridlington & Rumpler 2013). Fracking is said to trigger seismic events and major ground water and air pollution (Rehu & Morgan 2012), thus damaging flora, fauna and the population living near fracking sites (Zittel 2015). Continue reading here.
The Lost Gold of Burkina Faso – A Parliamentary Inquiry into the Mining Sector
By Katja Werthmann, Institute of African Studies, University of Leipzig
Recently, Burkina Faso celebrated the second anniversary of its popular uprising on 30 and 31 October 2014 that put an end to the Compaoré regime after 27 years. Parliamentary and municipal elections were held in November 2015. The new government under President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thiéba faces a number of daunting challenges and expectations. One of the challenges is a reorganization of the mining sector. According to a report published in October 2016 by a parliamentary commission of inquiry on mining titles and the social responsibility of mines, the Burkinabè state suffered a profit loss of almost a billion US dollars between 2005 and 2015 due to corruption, mismanagement and speculation in the mining sector. Continue reading here.
Generating Extractive Industry Capitalism: Corporate Foreign Policy and the Resource Frontier
By Paul Robert Gilbert, University of Brighton
Each year in the Autumn, London’s Geological Society hosts ‘FINEX: Exploration Meets the City’ in their well-appointed premises on Piccadilly. Perhaps more than any of the other similar events hosted year-round in the City of London’s livery companies and Chambers of Commerce, FINEX epitomizes the commercialization of geological expertise upon which mineral exploration depends. Partly a matchmaking event for financiers and geologists, FINEX also includes seminars from lawyers who advise on the key ‘political risks’ facing the metals and mining sector, or provide detailed advice on navigating the mineral codes of newly attractive ‘frontier’ jurisdictions. Alongside the networking and the expert briefings, FINEX and events like it always make plenty of time for the spectacle of the investor pitch. Continue reading here.
Mining, Environments and the role of Anthropologists
By Lorenzo D’Angelo, University of Milano-Bicocca
The continued economic and ecological crises of recent years have again shown how economists and international leaders have overestimated the ability of markets to expand and self-regulate. In a finite world, dominated by a social imaginary of infinite progress and magically generated wealth (Comaroff, Comaroff 2001), the appropriation of resources and control over the commons are the reasons behind an increasing number of conflicts and structural inequalities (Strang, Busse 2011). To escape from the “specter of impoverishment fostered by unlimited growth benefiting only a few” (Nash 2006: 36), we need to critically rethink the relationship between societies and environments. As Melissa Checker (2009) has pointed out, anthropology can offer an important contribution to academic and public debate by inviting and inspiring an in-depth analysis of recent social and environmental changes. Continue reading here.
Shining diamonds: of global connections and local lifeworlds
By Robert Pijpers, University of Oslo
Resources are all around us, they are in the screen you are now looking at, in the Olympic medals that have recently been generously awarded at the Olympics in Brazil, in the cars, bikes and trains we use to transport ourselves with and in the houses we live in. For many of us, resources are in the ground they are working on - digging, breaking, sifting, washing this ground in order to extract that valuable product, be it coltan, stone or diamonds - or operating machines, managing human resources, building mining infrastructure, functioning in the boards of companies and trading on the stock market. For others, resources are the reason for resettlement and dispossession, for conflict and for environmental disasters. In other words, resources and their extraction are a crucial daily reality for everybody, be it in the (potentially combined) form of production and consumption, as challenge and opportunity. Continue reading here.
Anthropologists in the company of gatekeepers
By Sabine Luning, Leiden University
My recent start of new fieldwork in Suriname and French Guiana raises interesting questions about ‘entering the field’. How is it that the process of negotiating access to people and places is in itself a major source of knowledge about power relations? Continue reading here.