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date: 08 May 2021

Mining and Indigenous Peoplesfree

  • Nicholas BaintonNicholas BaintonThe University of Queensland,


Anthropologists have been studying the relationship between mining and the local forms of community that it has created or impacted since at least the 1930s. While the focus of these inquiries has moved with the times, reflecting different political, theoretical, and methodological priorities, much of this work has concentrated on local manifestations of the so-called resource curse or the paradox of plenty. Anthropologists are not the only social scientists who have tried to understand the social, cultural, political, and economic processes that accompany mining and other forms of resource development, including oil and gas extraction. Geographers, economists, and political scientists are among the many different disciplines involved in this field of research. Nor have anthropologists maintained an exclusive claim over the use of ethnographic methods to study the effects of large- or small-scale resource extraction. But anthropologists have generally had a lot more to say about mining and the extractives in general when it has involved people of non-European descent, especially exploited subalterns—peasants, workers, and Indigenous peoples.

The relationship between mining and Indigenous people has always been complex. At the most basic level, this stems from the conflicting relationship that miners and Indigenous people have to the land and resources that are the focus of extractive activities, or what Marx would call the different relations to the means of production. Where miners see ore bodies and development opportunities that render landscapes productive, civilized, and familiar, local Indigenous communities see places of ancestral connection and subsistence provision. This simple binary is frequently reinforced—and somewhat overdrawn—in the popular characterization of the relationship between Indigenous people and mining companies, where untrammeled capital devastates hapless tribal people, or what has been aptly described as the “Avatar narrative” after the 2009 film of the same name.

By the early 21st century, many anthropologists were producing ethnographic works that sought to debunk popular narratives that obscure the more complex sets of relationships existing between the cast of different actors who are present in contemporary mining encounters and the range of contradictory interests and identities that these actors may hold at any one point in time. Resource extraction has a way of surfacing the “politics of indigeneity,” and anthropologists have paid particular attention to the range of identities, entities, and relationships that emerge in response to new economic opportunities, or what can be called the “social relations of compensation.” That some Indigenous communities deliberately court resource developers as a pathway to economic development does not, of course, deny the asymmetries of power inherent to these settings: even when Indigenous communities voluntarily agree to resource extraction, they are seldom signing up to absorb the full range of social and ecological costs that extractive companies so frequently externalize. These imposed costs are rarely balanced by the opportunities to share in the wealth created by mineral development, and for most Indigenous people, their experience of large-scale resource extraction has been frustrating and often highly destructive. It is for good reason that analogies are regularly drawn between these deals and the vast store of mythology concerning the person who sells their soul to the devil for wealth that is not only fleeting, but also the harbinger of despair, destruction, and death. This is no easy terrain for ethnographers, and engagement is fraught with difficult ethical, methodological, and ontological challenges.

Anthropologists are involved in these encounters in a variety of ways—as engaged or activist anthropologists, applied researchers and consultants, and independent ethnographers. The focus of these engagements includes environmental transformation and social disintegration, questions surrounding sustainable development (or the uneven distribution of the costs and benefits of mining), company–community agreement making, corporate forms and the social responsibilities of corporations (or “CSR”), labor and livelihoods, conflict and resistance movements, gendered impacts, cultural heritage management, questions of indigeneity, and displacement effects, to name but a few. These different forms of engagement raise important questions concerning positionality and how this influences the production of knowledge—an issue that has divided anthropologists working in this contested field. Anthropologists must also grapple with questions concerning good ethnography, or what constitutes a “good enough” account of the relations between Indigenous people and the multiple actors assembled in resource extraction contexts.

Mining and Indigenous Peoples

Anthropologists have been studying the relationship between mining and the local forms of community that it has either created or impacted since at least the 1930s. By the turn of the century, anthropological interest in mining had distilled into a more defined field known as the “anthropology of mining” (Godoy 1985; Ballard and Banks 2003; Filer 2018). The growth of this sub-discipline reflects the dramatic expansion of extractive activities throughout the 20th century and the extent to which 21st-century societies and economies are underpinned by the ideological assumptions of “extractivism” in what is sometimes called the “mineral age” (Jalbert et al. 2017; Jacka 2018). While the focus of these inquiries has evolved, reflecting industrial developments and different political, theoretical, and methodological priorities, a good deal of this ethnographic work has concentrated on local manifestations of the so-called resource curse or the paradox of plenty, which generally holds that countries with an abundance of natural resources tend to experience less economic growth and worse development outcomes (Gilberthorpe and Rajak 2017; Langton and Mazel 2008).1

Anthropologists are not the only social scientists who have tried to understand the social, cultural, political, and economic processes that accompany mining and other forms of resource development, including oil and gas extraction (e.g., Rogers 2015; Shever 2012). Geographers, economists, and political scientists are among the many different disciplines involved in this field of research. Nor have anthropologists maintained an exclusive claim over the use of ethnographic methods to study the effects of large- and small-scale resource extraction. But anthropologists have generally had a lot more to say about mining and the wider extractives when it has involved people of non-European descent, especially exploited subalterns—peasants, workers and Indigenous peoples. This is partly due to a colonial (and postcolonial) preoccupation with “non-Western others” and the influence of outside forces, including states, Christianity, and capitalist intrusion—which in many locations arrived historically as a kind of package deal (Wolf 1982).

Mines come in all different shapes and sizes, from labor-intensive artisanal and small-scale activities through to massive long-term capital-intensive industrial enterprises. These different forms of extraction occur on different temporal and spatial scales and require varying levels of labor, technology, and capital investment, but they all share a common need to access land and natural resources. This is one reason why the relationship between mining and Indigenous people has always been complex. At the most basic level, this stems from the conflicting relationship that miners and Indigenous people have to the landscapes at the center of extractive activities, or what Marx would call the different relations to the means of production. Where miners see ore bodies and development opportunities that render landscapes productive, civilized, and familiar (Trigger 1997), local Indigenous communities may see places of ancestral connection and subsistence provision. This simple binary is frequently reinforced—and somewhat overdrawn—in the popular characterization of the relationship between Indigenous people and mining companies, where untrammeled capital devastates hapless tribal people, or what has been aptly described as the “Avatar narrative,” after the 2009 film of the same name (Burton 2014).

Resource extraction has a way of surfacing the “politics of indigeneity” (Sawyer 2004), and anthropologists have paid particular attention to the range of networks and alliances, and social identities and entities (Ernst 1999) that emerge in response to these new economic opportunities, or what is sometimes called the social relations of mining compensation (Filer 2006). By the end of the 20th century, many anthropologists were producing ethnographic works that debunked the kinds of popular narratives that obscure the more complex sets of relationships that exist between the cast of different actors and interests assembled around extractive projects. This is no easy terrain for anthropologists, and engagement is fraught with difficult ethical, methodological, and ontological challenges.

Anthropologists are involved or “entangled” (Bainton and Owen 2019) in these “mining encounters” (Pijpers and Eriksen 2019) in a variety of ways, as engaged or activist anthropologists (Kirsch 2018), applied researchers and consultants (Cochrane 2017; Goldman 2000; Macintyre 2001), and independent ethnographers. These forms of engagement raise important questions concerning positionality or the alliances that anthropologists form with different actors and how this influences the production of knowledge—an issue that has divided anthropologists working in this contested field. Anthropologists and other social scientists must also grapple with questions concerning good ethnography, or what constitutes a “good enough” (Scheper-Hughes 1993, 28) account of the relations between Indigenous people and the multiple actors assembled in “mining arenas” (Le Muer 2015).

Contested Terrain

Large-scale industrial mining projects have become the target or the cause of unprecedented conflict on almost every continent. However, artisanal and small-scale mining activities, which are frequently informal or illegal in nature, generate an equally complex set of social impacts and human rights abuses (Hilson 2003). This is especially so when these activities are connected to armed conflicts and paramilitary movements, which has been the case throughout parts of Africa (Richards 1996), South America (Taussig 2004), and beyond (Le Billon 2014). Localized conflicts over resources typically reveal a common set of larger macroeconomic impacts of the resource curse in terms of government dependency upon mineral rents and the failure to develop economic alternatives. These conflicts can assume a variety of different forms and scales that range from the spectacular and the bloody through to mundane forms of everyday grievance (Warnaars 2013).

Mining often gives rise to accelerated forms of social disintegration among local communities (Filer 1990), livelihood deprivations and contests over land and scarce resources (Oskarsson 2018), threats to cultural heritage (Bainton, Ballard, and Gillespie 2012; Keen 1993), and in the most extreme cases, human and ecological genocide (Robins 2011; Galeano 1997; Peluso and Watts 2001). Just as many colonial conquerers thought that the new lands they had “discovered” were “vacant” or “uninhabited,” many mining projects have been justified on the basis that the landscape is “deserted” or a “wasteland,” a process that Traci Brynne Voyles (2015) has called “wastelanding.” Global reliance upon the extraction of nonrenewable resources has unleashed new forms of inequality linked to environmental destruction and forced dislocation (Teaiwa 2014), the privatization and enclosure of common property, and modern forms of wage slavery. In such cases, mining constitutes another form of “environmental racism” and forms part of larger processes of dispossession and structural injustice.

Mining projects also induce specific gendered impacts. Rapid processes of modernization that accompany resource development can disrupt local gender relations, destabilize household compositions, and exacerbate the decline in women’s status (Lahiri-Dutt 2011; Lahiri-Dutt and Macintyre 2006). The effects of extraction are experienced differentially among men and women, and across generations. Despite attempts by the global mining industry and the World Bank to address the role of “women in mining” and related industries, their employers often implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) reinforce values of male economic privilege that affect familial relations and marginalize women. And as many anthropologists have shown, women are routinely excluded from the benefits of extraction in more thoroughgoing and distinctly nontraditional ways. But arguably one of the most profound disruptions for Indigenous communities affected by mining is the influx of migrants into the immediate area around the mining operation, not least of all because these population movements often entail scores of “mobile males” (Bainton and Banks 2018; Bainton 2017; Moodie and Ndatshe 1994).

These different social and geographical changes transform Indigenous lifeworlds, remake places, and irreversibly reshape relationships and senses of place that precede mining. Daily life rhythms are upended as industrial activities give rise to multiple and complex temporalities that are accompanied by multiple representations, discourses, and politics of time (D’Angelo and Pijpers 2018). Not all of these changes are instantaneous. Some are better conceptualized as forms of “slow violence” (Nixon 2013), as “the common good” is privatized and society–environment relations are fundamentally altered over time (Jacka 2015; Babidge 2016). For example, the gradual removal of mountaintops in West Virginia has produced competing narratives about the benefits of coal mining and the value of the landscape (McNeil 2011). This kind of violence is sometimes neither remarkable nor immediate, but rather a kind of gradual insidious creep as landscapes, places, and social nuance are erased, and its calamitous repercussions are likely to be felt by local communities long after mining operations cease (Bebbington and Humphries Bebbington 2018).

A brief global survey of mining conflicts illustrates how differences between states, environmental settings, geographical scales, resource types, regulatory regimes, historical conditions, and resource actors, to name just a few elements, combine in unique ways to produce different kinds of mining scenarios, or resource conjunctures, that produce particular forms of conflict (see, e.g., Allen 2018; Ballard 2002; Bebbington 2012; Bridge 2004). While it may be said that mining conflicts possess a “family resemblance” rather than a single determinative cause (Kirsch 2014, 50), at the core of these struggles there are often persistent issues surrounding localized or customary forms of inequality. For this reason, some resource conflicts in some Indigenous settings are perhaps better understood as conflicts around identity rather than resources per se, since these struggles are ultimately about who is able to claim ownership of land and natural resources, and therefore, who is able to access new kinds of wealth. And it is for this reason that many anthropologists have drawn from the intellectual wellsprings of Marxian analysis (even if it is not explicitly acknowledged) to ask questions about the distribution of the burdens and benefits of resource development and the processes of capital accumulation.

Although the corporate “costs of conflict” may sometimes be significant (Franks et al. 2014), local “host” communities, and Indigenous people in particular, often stand to lose the most as the costs of these struggles are externalized onto society and the environment. Companies rarely account for these “externalities” and most communities are poorly placed to absorb these in the ways that corporations more readily do. That some Indigenous communities deliberately court resource developers as a pathway to economic development does not, of course, deny the power imbalances inherent to these settings: even when Indigenous communities voluntarily agree to resource extraction, they are seldom signing up to absorb the full range of social and ecological costs that mining operations so frequently create. These imposed costs are rarely balanced by the opportunities to share in the wealth created by mineral development, and for most Indigenous people their experience of large-scale resource extraction has been frustrating and often highly destructive in environmental and social terms (Bebbington and Bury 2013; Howitt, Connell, and Hirsch 1996). It is for good reason that analogies are regularly drawn between these deals and the vast store of mythology concerning the person who sells their soul to the devil for wealth that is not only fleeting, but also the harbinger of despair, destruction, and death.

African Models in the British Academy

George Orwell’s description of the underground lives of miners in The Road to Wigan Pier remains a classic of political ethnography and could be counted among the earliest sociological treatments of mining and modernity. Following a vivid account of the lives of the laboring poor in 1930s industrial England, in the second half of the book Orwell lifts his gaze above the filth and deprivation of industrial mining to speak about inequality on a global scale. Around roughly the same time, a similar form of industrialism was getting underway in the colonial reaches of Central and Southern Africa after British commercial and imperial interests converged around the systematic exploitation of the region’s mineral resources. It was these kinds of capitalist activities that Orwell had in mind when he moralized about the transfer of wealth from the periphery to the metropolitan core so that Englishmen could ride in taxis or eat plates of strawberries and cream—a set of geographical moralities that Immanuel Wallerstein (1974) would later formulate as a world-systems theory of capitalism.

The initiation of large-scale copper mining in Zambia (formally known as Northern Rhodesia) in the late 1920s propelled this previously agricultural territory toward a kind of industrial revolution. Within a matter of years, a number of towns sprang up across the mineral-rich Copperbelt region, and thousands of migrant laborers poured into these places from the surrounding districts to work in the mines and other new industries. In 1939, Audrey Richards, a former student of Malinowski, published her seminal work on the effects of absent male labor on local food production among Zambia’s Bemba tribe. Agricultural production was shown to steadily decrease with the wholesale emigration of males to the mines, which led Richards to conclude that “the dead appearance of villages with a large percentage of absent men is one of the most striking features of the country-side” (1961, 405). The rapid process of urbanization caught the attention of anthropologists and colonial officials alike and gave rise to a major coordinated program of urban and rural research, including some of the first anthropological studies on the social effects of mining. The results of this program have continued to inspire generations of anthropologists working across a range of ethnographic settings.

Much of this research was conducted under the auspices of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute (RLI), established in 1937 by the British government for the purpose of undertaking social research in British Central Africa, or what would become Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. Under the leadership of Godfrey Wilson, the inaugural director, and his successor, Max Gluckman (who was also a student of Malinowski and held the chair from 1940 to 1949), the RLI represented an important development in the elaboration of an anthropological approach to questions of urbanization, industrialization, and social transformation (Ferguson 1999, 27). In association with the anthropology department at Manchester University—where Gluckman would later take up an appointment—RLI anthropologists developed an innovative strand of inquiry that challenged Malinowski’s static form of structural functionalism by emphasizing processes of articulation and change, conflict and resolution, and interpersonal interaction. Gluckman’s seven-year research plan for the RLI was inspired by his reading of Marx and his earlier experiences in southern Africa, and by his predecessor, Wilson, who studied African miners in the town of Broken Hill. The research plan stressed the transformative effects of industrialization on even the most remote villages, the influence of international markets, and the exercise of government control. This called for a form of anthropological inquiry that prioritized individual agency rather than social structures composed of interconnected social roles. In turn, this demanded a set of field methods that focused on individual actors, a criterion met through social networks, situational analysis, social drama, and the extended case study method (Mitchell 1956). The RLI anthropologists who advanced these approaches came to be known as the “Manchester School” (Werbner 1984; Evens and Handelman 2006; Schumaker 2001).

The period leading up to the late 1960s produced a number of classic essays and monographs—generally known as the “Copperbelt studies”—that focused on several interrelated topics, including the economics of detribalization (Wilson 1941–1942), the urban phenomenon of labor migration and organization (Epstein 1958), ethnic identities and the meaning of tribalism among urban laborers (Mitchell 1959), informal social networks (Epstein 1961; Mitchell 1969), changing forms of marriage and kinship relations among laboring groups (Epstein 1981), and the social effects of industrial revolution (Gluckman 1961). While the legacy of the Manchester School continues to shape contemporary anthropology, the original RLI anthropologists were not without their critics. Postcolonial scholars claimed that RLI anthropologists failed to fully address the struggle against colonial oppression and were simply loyal servants of the colonial system (Mugabane 1969, 1971). But as James Ferguson has suggested, the RLI anthropologists—who saw themselves as “progressives” (relative to other whites) and as advocates for African interests—were perhaps better seen as “colonial liberals.” The RLI was, in the end, part of the colonial establishment, not an alternative to it (Ferguson 1999, 32). Nevertheless, the RLI anthropologists fought against the dominant view that Africans simply remained tribesmen in towns and did not belong in urban settings. Coupled with the modern symbolism of the expanding mining industry, which evoked images of the English industrial revolution, this partly explains why mineworkers occupied an especially prominent place in the Copperbelt studies on migration and urbanization. This may also explain the commitment among RLI anthropologists to the idea that the actions and relations of urban Africans should be understood in the context of the urban institutions that they inhabited and not the tribal village that they had left behind—a notion best captured in Gluckman’s famous dictum that “an African townsman is a townsman; an African miner is a miner” (Gluckman 1961, 69).

The Rise of a Global Industry

English and African mining operations typically involved large gangs of manual labor digging tunnels and shafts in search of minerals, and for the most part this was the primary method of extraction across much of the world until the second half of the 20th century. During the 1970s and 1980s, a combination of geopolitical shifts and technological advancements transformed mining practices across the globe and set in train a more encompassing international policy process. New technologies emerged that led to the mechanization and partial automation of different aspects of the extractive and processing cycle. As the Cold War drew to a close and the so-called neoliberal epoch opened up (Harvey 2005a), new market economies emerged and international finance institutions imposed structural adjustment programs on developing nations that encouraged the privatization of state assets, including state-owned mining operations. With the help of the World Bank, mining laws in many countries were revised or formulated with the goal of encouraging foreign direct investment. This resulted in extensive exploration and development throughout South America, and to a lesser extent Africa and the Asia-Pacific. Since many of these new mining projects were developed in remote regions with limited access to services and infrastructure or alternative economic activities, mining companies sought ways to reduce the cost of building and maintaining mining townships to accommodate their workforce. As air transport became less cost prohibitive, companies started designing projects based around a highly mobile form of labor known as “fly-in-fly-out” employment, where workers are flown to the mine site from their “residential point of hire” for rostered periods of work. This meant that company-run mining townships were gradually replaced with mining camps, which also changed the social relations of these operations. Together these technological and political changes, which played out over a period of roughly twenty to thirty years in different parts of the world, ushered in a new era of large-scale open cut mining that increased the overall rate of extraction, expanded the environmental and social footprint of the industry, created new resource frontiers (Tsing 2005), and mobilized a much larger set of social, political, and economic interests.

These developments were not matched by comparable levels of environmental and social regulation or corporate willingness to manage larger impacts. By the 1980s, it had become a standard international requirement for major industrial developments, such as mining projects, to be subjected to a process of environmental impact assessment that also included consideration of various social impacts. Anthropologists were often involved in this type of work when prospective mines were being developed on or near the lands of Indigenous communities. But the requirement to undertake these assessments rarely translated into improved operational practices. There was often a disconnection between the social and environmental risks identified in these studies, and the capabilities and regulation required to ensure that companies and governments minimize predicted impacts.

By the end of the 20th century, the global mining industry was beset with a series of high-profile scandals and conflicts. The most significant of these, in the southern hemisphere, was the Panguna copper mine that was established on Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea in the final days of Australia’s colonial rule in 1972. The social and environmental impacts of the mine amplified existing processes of social change, which gave rise to a local resistance movement that eventually forced the closure of the mine in 1989. Combined with a heavy state response, these events sparked a conflict that lasted for nearly ten years and claimed some twenty thousand lives from a population of approximately one hundred eighty thousand people (Spriggs and Denoon 1991; Lasslett 2014; Regan 2017). In 1997, the government launched an ill-fated attempt to deploy international mercenaries to quell the insurrection after several peace initiatives had failed. This created a new crisis as the national defense force revolted against these plans in what came to be known as the “Sandline affair,” after the mercenary company of the same name (Dorney 1998). This was a turning point in the nation’s history. It exposed the government’s desire for mining revenue and mobilized a broader civil society movement. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, the giant Ok Tedi mine was being developed to help restore some funding to the national coffers. In 1994, landowners living downstream from the mine commenced legal proceedings against the BHP mining company as the operator of the mine over claims of environmental destruction as a result of riverine tailings disposal. This eventually caused BHP to walk away from the project and to hand its interests over to the state (Banks and Ballard 1997; Kirsch 2014).

These events, along with a raft of mining-related impacts and conflicts in South America and elsewhere, forced the chief executives of some of the world’s largest companies to band together in 1998 to commission a review process to better understand the social and political threats to their industry. The industry-sponsored Global Mining Initiative and the Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project (IIED 2002) involved a series of studies and stakeholder consultations across the globe, to which numerous anthropologists contributed expert opinions based upon their intimate knowledge of the social and environmental effects of extraction (Filer 2002). Around the same time, the industry developed the idea that it needed a “social licence to operate,” which it vaguely understood as a form of social consent or community trust that underwrote its operations in addition to any legal permits. The industry has since spent considerable energy trying to demonstrate the existence of this social licence despite mounting evidence to the contrary (Owen 2016).

One outcome of this reflective process was the formation of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) in 2001 to promote more environmentally and socially responsible forms of resource development. Companies seeking membership of the ICMM must demonstrate their commitment to various standards of corporate social responsibility, including commitments to minimize harm to Indigenous people living near their operations. But as numerous industry critics have observed, there are very few penalties for those companies who fail to uphold these values, which tends to reinforce the view that mining companies cannot be trusted to change their ways without some form of external countervailing force compelling them to do so (Owen and Kemp 2017). In addition, this also highlights some of the limitations associated with soft regulation and voluntary industry initiatives (Dashwood 2012). In 2004, the World Bank initiated a similar multi-stakeholder review of its involvement in the extractive industries, and the end result of this process was the formulation of a fresh set of international standards, known as the Equator Principles, which were designed to promote more responsible lending practices. The Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, also developed its own distinctive set of “social and environmental performance standards” in 2006 that included specific guidance on Indigenous peoples. While these international standards may help companies and banks to identify and mitigate potential risks to society and the environment, they primarily serve to safeguard investments to ensure a profitable return. Nevertheless, the global mining industry now subscribes to a rapidly emerging set of normative standards expressed in a variety of policy instruments that underscores its belief that mining can contribute to some form of sustainable development and enhance the well-being of Indigenous people in particular.2

Mining companies and states engage with Indigenous rights and interests in a variety of ways that produce different outcomes in different regional settings. International standards require mining companies to identify any Indigenous people with an interest in the areas where they intend to mine; for example, as residents, landowners, cultural custodians, or as so-called marginal and vulnerable groups (Burton and Onguglo 2017). The identification of Indigenous peoples should theoretically trigger engagement processes based upon the principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent that may then afford communities the opportunity to veto or approve mining activities on their lands. In practice, this is rarely a straightforward exercise because in some Indigenous communities, it is not always clear who should have the right to provide this consent (see Macintyre 2007) and because Indigenous identities are not axiomatic. It may therefore be argued that this burgeoning assortment of corporate commitments has produced a further paradox, as the scale of problems confronting Indigenous peoples as a result of resource extraction remains monumental. But for some anthropologists, efforts to reform “mining capitalism” through voluntary corporate social responsibility commitments will always fall short because the underlying dilemmas associated with capitalist modes of production can never be completely resolved (Kirsch 2014, 3). Deanna Kemp and John Owen (2018) consider this to be a result of the “industrial ethic” that motivates extractive companies: a singular, unenlightened, unmitigated approach to pursuing their own commercial self-interest.

The Politics of Indigeneity

Although anthropologists have been studying “mining communities” and “mine-affected communities” for some time, and many of these communities include people of non-European descent, not all of these people necessarily count as Indigenous peoples. The earlier Copperbelt studies rarely had cause to use such terminology, partly because this did not form part of the colonial lexicon of the time in this part of the world, and partly because the “identity politics” of this region were expressed in terms of ethnic or tribal associations or race relations rather than ideas of indigeneity.

By the second half of the 20th century, decolonization movements were underway across Africa, South Asia, and the Pacific. Coupled with wider social upheavals experienced during the 1960s and 1970s, these developments enabled various forms of indigenous activism that challenged assimilationist agendas and promoted broadly conceived indigenous rights. Indigenous organizations multiplied in the 1980s and 1990s with support from NGOs and international institutions, with indigenous concerns acquiring unprecedented political visibility in Latin America, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Since at least the 1980s, the term “indigenous” has become “internationalized” and “institutionalized” and come to presuppose a sphere of commonality among those who inhabit a global collectivity of Indigenous peoples, which could be understood as a type of “imagined community” (Anderson 1983), who are contrasted with their various others (Merlan 2009, 303).

The term indigenous derives from the Latin indigena and the French indigene and has long been used as a designation distinguishing those who are “native” from their “others” in specific locales and with varying scope. However, simple binary approaches typically reduce notions of indigeneity to primordial identities and transhistorical attachments. James Clifford has argued for a more historically contingent approach that stresses the “articulated” nature of indigenous identities: a non-reductive way of thinking about cultural transformation that can encompass the messy, pragmatic, and entangled nature of contemporary indigenous cultural politics (Clifford 2001). The proliferation of “indigenous studies” has broadly set out to understand the “varied faces of indigenous experience” (Cadena and Starn 2007), including the range of indigenous ways of being “modern” and the politics of recognition (Povinelli 2002) and refusal (Simpson 2014).

The concept of Indigenous people may also be understood as a quintessentially modern phenomenon, partly because of the complex and fundamental ways this identity is tied to normative liberal democratic principles embedded in the international discourse of human rights (Niezen 2003; Holcombe 2018, 11). Indigenous human rights are confirmed through various international policy instruments embedded in the United Nations system (Anaya 2004). Among other things, this has resulted in greater attention to the impacts of the extractive industries on Indigenous peoples (Anaya 2013). Given the diversity of Indigenous peoples globally, an official definition has not been adopted by any UN system body. Nevertheless, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 now constitutes the main international point of reference for identifying Indigenous people, and its scope of application includes self-identification, preexistence, connection to ancestral lands, and the presence of distinct languages, customs, and forms of social organization. From an anthropological perspective, questions of indigeneity are more complex than the presence or absence of basic “criteria” or “intrinsic characteristics.” Indigenous identities are neither self-evident, historically fixed, nor universally apparent; these are often political identities, as Indigenous people are frequently defined in relation to the state (and increasingly multinational companies).

Across the globe, mine-affected communities engage with the international discourse of indigeneity in different ways. Groups that identify as Indigenous respond to resource extraction in their territories partly in terms of the potential for development outcomes as well as how extraction may represent a threat to their way of life. These kinds of conflicting responses can often emerge within the same community and become a major source of acrimony. In the context of contemporary resource extraction, the question of indigeneity, or who counts as an Indigenous person in these settings, is always a point of struggle and contestation, not least of all because it “inherently entails claims to certain rights over the use, management and flow of benefits from resource-based industries” (Howitt et al. 1996, 3).

In their work on the “politics of resource extraction,” Suzana Sawyer and Edmund Gomez propose that Indigenous identity is best understood as an “assemblage” in the sense implied by Delueze and Guattari (1987): as an entity whose properties emerge from the interactions between parts. This idea of identity as assemblage introduces, on the one hand, notions of radical multiplicity into social phenomena that have conventionally been understood as being discretely bounded, structured, and stable and, on the other hand, a dimension of emergence that stresses uncertainty and unpredictability (Sawyer and Gomez 2012, 10). Likewise, Tania Murray Li has argued that the twin concepts of “positioning” and “articulation” help to illuminate how Indigenous identities arise in some settings and not others (T. M. Li 2000). Accordingly, a group’s self-identification as Indigenous is neither natural nor inevitable nor necessarily invented, adopted, or imposed. It is, rather, “a positioning which draws upon historically sedimented practices, landscapes, and repertoires of meaning, and emerges through particular patterns of engagement and struggle” (T. M. Li 2000, 151). These complementary perspectives highlight the relational, discursive, political, performative, spatial, and historical dimensions of Indigenous identities and the elements that simultaneously render such phenomena perceptible, invest it with meaning, and extend to it possibilities and constraints. That is, in addition to being remarkably empowering, the internationally recognized and sanctioned notion of Indigenous identity can also have eliding and constraining tendencies, as specific assemblages can create regimes of recognition as well as nonrecognition (Sawyer and Gomez 2012, 10). Being identified or identifying as Indigenous is therefore both a political position and a vulnerable position.

Conventional notions of Indigenous identity tend to rest upon images of a minority population subsumed within a majority non-Indigenous nation-state. In some settings, the notion of Indigenous people does not easily fit with national sociopolitical circumstances. There may be no direct equivalent term in national legal systems or national narratives, while state policies may be framed around notions of unity in diversity and policies that aim to mainstream remote communities. These kinds of circumstances often accentuate the disjuncture between local collective identities and lifeways, state objectives, and international political discourses. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, Maori and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders constitute Indigenous minorities marginalized within post-settler nations.3 The situation is rather different in neighboring Indonesia where numerous large-scale mining operations exist. The multiethnic composition of this postcolonial nation-state has given rise to or constructed Indigenous minorities in particular regions and territories. In this setting, the ideology of Indigenous peoples plays an important role in helping certain groups to make sense of their situation (e.g., the threat of extraction) and how to improve it. But as Li has demonstrated, in order for these identities to emerge and find traction, local groups must present themselves and their “indigenousness” in ways that resonate with outside audiences and conform to politically acceptable ideas of the “tribal slot” (T. M. Li 2000).

Similar legal requirements exist in Australia where native title claimants—whose lands are often affected by mining activities—are held captive to state-sanctioned forms of “repressive authenticity” that require Indigenous people to demonstrate continuity of rights and interests under traditional laws acknowledged and traditional customs observed, and the maintenance of connection with lands and waters since colonization (Altman 2012, 52; Wolfe 1999). So if Indigenous identity has become a kind of “weapon of the weak” (Scott 1985) for some groups and not others, this is partly because certain preconditions must exist for these groups that enable them to articulate a collective position and forge connections to wider circuits of meaning in relation to particular interests. These processes also reveal how the distinct cultural identities and practices of local groups are brought to the fore and “parochialized” and “re-signified” when large-scale resource extraction projects that are designed to serve national (or multinational) interests are developed on their lands.

The absence of a local discourse of indigeneity does not preclude people from self-identifying as Indigenous in other settings or at specific moments in time as a way of drawing international attention to local struggles. For example, in Papua New Guinea, a country comprising hundreds of land-connected cultural groups, the concept of Indigenous people has limited currency in everyday contexts (Filer 2001). The term is not widely used in national or local political discourse, and the state does not formally refer to its citizens as such. Instead, most people prefer to see themselves as “landowners,” which reflects the constitutional recognition of their customary land rights and their strong sense of local sovereignty (Filer 1997; Jorgensen 1997). However, since at least the early 2000s, a growing number of groups have adopted the international language of Indigenous human rights to garner international support on specific issues related to the exploitation of their natural resources. In response to the “slow motion environmental disaster” caused by riverine tailings disposal from the giant Ok Tedi mine, downstream customary landowners sought assistance from international activists, researchers, lawyers, and civil society groups. As these landowners engaged with international NGOs and Indigenous representatives from other countries, they began see their Indigenous identity as a productive way to frame issues and forge new political alliances that would support their cause and gain traction in ways that were not possible in the domestic political sphere (Kirsch 2014, 80). Landowners impacted by the neighboring Porgera gold mine have also adopted the language of Indigeneity in their protests at various UN forums and in Canada against Barrick Gold as the owner of the mine. These developments speak to the emergence of transnational activist networks, Indigenous to Indigenous alliances, and the role of global organizations and institutions (like the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) in facilitating these movements and allegiances (Niezen and Sapignoli 2017).

These examples illustrate the “mobility” of terms like Indigenous people or “tribal groups” and the ways in which these terms take on new meaning in relation to specific fields of power (T. M. Li 2000, 151). These cases from the southern hemisphere also serve to illustrate how conventional notions of constructing indigenous identity within contemporary nation-states are sometimes less pivotal in understanding local issues of identity and resource-based geopolitics. In many cases, the real “resource wars” occur as a result of the competing claims among different Indigenous or ethnic groups over certain lands, as a basis for defining their identity, or as the foundation for establishing their rights and self-determination or access to project-related benefits (Banks 2008; Weiner and Glaskin 2007). In these situations, linguistic markers, descent, and other cultural diacritics become the dominant axis of identity and social organization rather than indigenousness per se, defined vis-à-vis the state.

From Landowners to Laborers

Reaching back to the Copperbelt studies and beyond, anthropologists have maintained an enduring concern with the social transformations that unfold as people living on the capitalist periphery are drawn into an international division of labor—as rural land-connected communities are converted into industrial labor reserves. Much of this work has been inspired by dependency theory and ideas about ideology and class consciousness, focusing on the gradual or in some cases quite sudden development of dependent rural laborers servicing large-scale capitalist enterprises, or the proletarianization of peasants into miners and the modernization and disenchantment of their world. The nationalization of the mining industry in Latin America and the rise of indigenous identity movements throughout the 1960s and 1970s set the political scene for two classic ethnographic works that provided detailed accounts of these emergent capitalist relations of production.

June Nash’s study on Bolivian tin miners stressed the inherent contradiction of consciousness experienced among these workers: the strong sense of dependency upon the mine as a source of employment and subsistence, the sense of outrage at the exploitation and oppression by those who control the mine, and the resulting failure to achieve greater self-determination (1979a, 330–334). She also introduced the world to El Tio, the devil figure to whom Bolivian tin miners performed sacrificial rites to ensure the smooth flow of production. Combining Nash’s observations with his own in Colombia, Michael Taussig (1980) suggested that these devil pacts served as a metaphor for the alienation of indigenous laborers from the commodities that they produced—or, in other words, a recognition among these miners that while capitalism appears to produce value, it actually consumes life and produces poverty. Together these path-breaking works illustrated the interaction between tradition and modernity and the articulation between local cosmologies and global processes as industrial mining is incorporated within indigenous frameworks of meaning. Although it would later become less fashionable to deploy such overt Marxist analysis, over the following decade numerous mining studies persisted with this frame of reference (e.g., Emberson-Bain 1994; Robinson 1986; Qaumina 1987; Hyndman 1994).

In the Papua New Guinea setting, anthropologists have reviewed the creative and destructive aspects of mining capitalism (and local forms of critique) as landowners are drawn into wage labor and the broader mining economy (Jorgensen 1998). Employment in the national mining industry also offers new forms of mobility and social value, and these employment opportunities—with higher salaries and superior benefits and conditions—have resulted in new inequalities across the broader wage-earning population; these workers may be said to constitute a “labor aristocracy” (Filer et al. 2016). The enduring and hegemonic masculinity of the global mining industry also influences the career aspirations and opportunities for many women in this country setting, and equally so in more developed Western contexts (Macintyre 2006, 2011; Parmenter 2011; Rolston 2014).

Mining towns remain a central focus of mining and labor studies as sites of social differentiation (Polier 1994) and the promise of modernity (Jacka 2001). These social distinctions are particularly apparent in the nation’s capital where a new class of senior national executives work for multinational extractive companies as “country level managers.” These men are employed on the basis of their social and political reach into the state bureaucracy and their ability to help these companies gain “traction” in difficult operating environments (Golub and Rhee 2013). However, the persistence of ethnic identities frequently trumps orthodox labor relations and undercuts other class interests in these industrial locations, which may explain the absence of a strong labor union movement (Imbun 2000; Nash and Ogan 1990; Gewertz and Errington 1999; Hess 2001). Combined with the security of customary land ownership as the basis for subsistence and autonomy, in some locations these social relations also act as structural barriers that prevent total proletarianization (Bainton 2010, 122–126).

Despite the alienating effects of industrial development, many Indigenous communities now demand privileged access to employment opportunities and business contracts as part of the package of benefits that they expect to receive in return for granting mining companies access to their lands (Bainton and Macintyre 2013; Banks 2007). These economic endeavors can give rise to acrimonious competition within local landowning communities, as only some people are able to set up businesses and only some businesses succeed, so the social and economic gaps between people widen. But for some Indigenous people, these employment and business opportunities are a definite source of economic advancement, and the global mining industry has been keen to harness these “good news stories” to justify its contribution to society.

The decade-long Australian mining boom that commenced in approximately 2003 increased the opportunities for Indigenous participation in mining and the mainstream economy (Altman and Martin 2009). But the persistence of certain structural barriers also obstructed the supply of Indigenous labor at a time of increasing labor demand, and preexisting forms discrimination and structural inequality found new life in the mining boom and prevented greater levels of economic empowerment (Taylor and Scambary 2005). Others have been more upbeat in their assessment. In her 2012 Boyer Lectures, anthropologist and prominent Aboriginal leader, Marcia Langton, sought to inject new ideas and ways of thinking about the status of Indigenous people in contemporary Australia and about the impact of the mining boom in the Aboriginal domain, which she argued was, for the most part, laden with images of downtrodden victims (Langton 2013). Among other things, Langton observed that mining has offered many Indigenous people a significant source of employment and contracting opportunities that serve as alternatives to state-based subsidies upon which many remote and regional Indigenous communities depend. Buoyed by these remarks, the Australian mining industry staked a claim as the largest employer of Aboriginal people of any industrial sector in Australia. A smaller subset of these Indigenous laborers have also found work as “cultural awareness” officers who are employed across the industry to educate white miners about Aboriginal culture. But in some cases, this only served to reinforce the politics of indigeneity and give new life to old tensions around issues of representation and cultural legitimacy (Parmenter and Trigger 2018).

Agreement Making with Indigenous Peoples

Given the history of conflict between miners and Indigenous people, for most of the 20th century the idea that mining companies would establish formal agreements with local Indigenous landholding groups was largely inconceivable: states granted operating licences to mining companies and spoke for Indigenous interests in relation to these projects. In Australia, the social and legal implications of the 1992 Mabo decision, which overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius (derived from the Latin term meaning “land belonging to no one”), meant that for the first time Aboriginal groups could legally assert their customary land rights and have a greater say in the activities taking place on their lands. The implications for the mining industry were significant. While agreements had been negotiated in Australia between mining companies and Aboriginal people and their representative organizations since the late 1970s, with the passage of the Native Title Act in 1993 and subsequent policy developments among certain mining companies, they have since become more common. This trend has been replicated internationally, most notably in Canada with First Nations groups (O’Faircheallaigh 2016).

Negotiated agreements, which exist in addition to legal permitting for operations, are now central to the way extraction business gets done. In broad legal terms, company–community agreements typically entail the terms and conditions of the mining project, outline the areas that will be impacted, and define the roles and responsibilities of different parties. These agreements usually outline provisions for socioeconomic benefits to mine-affected communities and commitments to mitigate environmental and social impacts in the hope that these measures will lower community resistance or conflict. In this sense, agreements are fundamentally about managing relationships and minimizing risks to companies as much as they are purportedly about articulating local development aspirations and project-related benefits. Informed by international standards and societal expectations, company–community agreements can be viewed as global phenomena that produce social, cultural, political, economic, and ecological effects in the world. In this regard, agreements are not lifeless artifacts, but are alive with the social process that produced them, and they have certain “performative” qualities. Agreements are therefore perhaps better conceptualized as sets of relations or global assemblages: non-spatial configurations of techniques, rationales, and systems designed to produce certain “rational” outcomes (Ong 2006). Viewed as such, anthropologists may then ask questions about the ways that agreements define or produce new kinds of social identities and relations.

Although anthropologists and other social scientists have studied the agreement-making process and related “agreement effects” in a range of locations and legal jurisdictions (Bainton 2010; Doohan 2008; Filer 2012; Langton and Longbottom 2012), whether these agreements achieve their stated objectives is a separate question, and there is a dearth of anthropological research on how and why agreements work, falter, or fail. Few anthropologists have paid serious attention to the management or implementation of these agreements. As political scientist Carian O’Faircheallaigh observed some time ago, implementation is the “forgotten dimension of agreement-making” (2002). If this knowledge gap persists, it is partly related to accessibility and visibility, and since few agreements are in the public domain, this is essentially an invisible area that needs more attention. In Australia, for instance, questions remain as to whether these agreements have helped to shift the high levels of structural disadvantage and material poverty found among many Indigenous populations who live in remote areas and in the vicinity of large-scale mines (Holcombe 2010; Martin, Trigger, and Parmenter 2014; Scambary 2013).

Emerging Directions and Enduring Debates

If it possible to detect an overall trend in the anthropological treatment of the relationship between mining and Indigenous people or the politics and conflicts that accompany resource extraction, then it may be found in the shift in focus from labor struggles to land grabs, or from proletarianization to property. Where earlier studies addressed questions about the social relations of labor and capital or accumulation by exploitation, subsequent studies have asked questions about the appropriation and privatization of resources and rights (e.g., T. M. Li 2014; F. Li 2015), or what Marx once termed “original” or “primitive accumulation,” and what David Harvey now calls “accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey 2005b). This has also generated enhanced attention to the “extractive imperative” (Arsel, Hogenboom, and Pellegrini 2016), which positions mining as a primary means of socioeconomic development, and the international alliances that oppose the dominance of globally connected industrial capitalism, and the new possibilities for political action.

A parallel movement has occurred as anthropologists have shifted their focus from bounded mining communities and mine-affected communities to the networks and social relations between resource actors and the divergent interests and strategies they pursue at particular moments in time. In this regard, the anthropology of the mining industry is beginning to resemble the anthropology of the oil and gas industry where there is a greater focus on different sites and scales and more “transient” communities. Anthropologists must also grapple with the fact that some individuals may simultaneously be part of the Indigenous landowner community and employees of the mine or representatives of the state or wider civil society groups. This not only highlights the tensions between the “social relations of compensation” and the “social relations of labor” (Filer and Le Muer 2017), but also complicates any simple stakeholder models based upon old dialectical constructs that lump all parties into two opposing camps, forever locked in a natural state of struggle. The turn toward more actor-orientated studies attempts to address the convolution of interests and aims to understand the social and political work of “enacting” macro-actors like “the company,” “the government,” or “the community” and how certain actors personate or come to stand for these larger collective actors (Golub 2014; Welker 2014). Despite being set in rather different historical and ethnographic contexts, these types of studies also retain some of the essential characteristics of the earlier Copperbelt studies with their application of the extended case study method and a focus on interpersonal conflict within and between mine-affected communities and mining companies.

The globalization of the mining industry has created more points of interface between society and the extractives. These developments have opened up new lines of inquiry around the performance of corporate social responsibility within these organizations (Rajak 2011; Dolan and Rajak 2016), the extent to which corporate community development programs (Banks et al. 2017) may actually perpetuate forms of violence by legitimating extraction (Gamu and Dauvergne 2018), or the ways in which the language of sustainability has been appropriated by the industry to silence its critics (Kirsch 2009). Multinational corporations loom large in every aspect of contemporary life, and anthropologists are paying more attention to corporate forms via classical concepts of personhood and property (Foster 2017; Welker, Partridge, and Hardin 2011), building upon earlier calls for an anthropology of multinational corporations (Nash 1979b) and for “studying up” (Nader 1972). But attempts to establish more nuanced insights into the social distinctions and relations that exist within mining companies continually confront issues of accessibility that limit these inquiries. As a result, anthropologists have generally written more about the effects of mining companies rather than their inner workings.

Notwithstanding the corporate aversion to ethnographic scrutiny, to some extent issues of accessibility also reflect decisions around the kinds of alliances or forms of engagement that anthropologists are willing to undertake. The proliferation of international standards since the late 1990s has provided more opportunities for anthropologists and other social scientists to directly engage with companies and other actors around the implementation of these new responsibilities. Some anthropologists justify their involvement in terms of “working within the system” to promote Indigenous interests or “brokering” relationships between the different parties (Filer 1999), and others argue that this is a legitimate path for researching the impact of state and corporate hegemony. But there are many other anthropologists who assume a more partisan stance and claim that any professional engagement that enables mining projects to be licenced, which inevitably leads to social and environmental abuses, can only be understood as a form of “corporate capture,” and anthropologists have a greater moral obligation to oppose these forms of capitalist development by whatever means possible (Coumans 2011; Kirsch 2014). This seems to remain the case even when the same Indigenous communities actively pursue resource development as a means of achieving the economic development that states cannot provide. These contrasting views have generated bitter disciplinary divisions, reflecting wider debates about the purpose and value of applied and engaged forms of anthropology (Low and Merry 2010; Hale 2006; Scheper-Hughes 1995; Trigger 2011). These debates also raise important methodological considerations regarding how the extractives are best studied as well as the ethical and moral dimensions surrounding certain allegiances (or “connections”) and forms of data collection (Golub 2018).

Although researchers rarely confront the same institutional barriers to access small-scale mining operations, anthropologists have generally written much less about these activities compared to other social scientists (although see Luning and Pijpers 2017; Moretti 2007; Lahiri-Dutt 2018). Nevertheless, anthropologists are increasingly focusing on the ways in which income derived from small-scale mining is understood or consumed (D’Angelo 2015; High 2013; Walsh 2003; Werthmann 2008), the entry of these minerals into global commodities chains (Smith 2015), and the ethics and valuation processes surrounding precious stones and metals (Bell 2017; Calkins 2016; Cross 2011). For the most part, however, there is little overlap between the vast bodies of literature on small-scale mining and large-scale mining (although see Luning 2014). There has been little consideration as to whether these activities form a continuum of extraction or whether it is even useful to think of them as part of the same category. As a result, there remains a great deal of work to understand and fully characterize the interface between small- and large-scale forms of mining, especially where these activities occur in close proximity and give rise to conflicts over access to land and the mineral resources that sustain local livelihoods. There is an equally shallow ethnographic knowledge base on the closure of large-scale mines. With few exceptions (e.g., Keeling and Sandlos 2015), there has been comparatively limited anthropological (or broader social science) research on the “social aspects of mine closure” in both remote Indigenous and urban industrial settings (Bainton and Holcombe 2018). The mine closure process, which can stretch from several years to several generations, typically surfaces a range of competing values and visions of the post-mining future (e.g., Halvakz 2008), and becomes an intense locus for conflict and compromise, highlighting the complex sociocultural, economic, political, and business realities that make up the “social terrains of closure” (Chaloping-March 2017).

As some mines are closing, others are opening or expanding with new levels of technical sophistication in ever more remote areas globally—or even in outer space, as space mining companies explore the prospect of mining asteroids (Pelton 2017). These developments will doubtless expand the rate of industrial incursion onto the Indigenous estate, which has been estimated to be at least one-quarter of Earth’s land mass (see Garnett et al. 2018). Technological advancements have opened up new mining frontiers in the deep sea, but compared with terrestrial mines, there is comparatively limited knowledge on the social and ecological dimensions of this form of extraction (Filer and Gabriel 2018; Pulu 2013). The drive toward a more “circular economy” and the need to reduce the extraction of new resources may increase the prospect of “urban mining” and the harvesting of waste materials (Cossu and Williams 2015). Increasing forms of automation (e.g., driverless haul trucks and remotely operated plant sites) are likely to reduce entry-level job opportunities for Indigenous people (who, because they may be engaging in the market economy for the first time, often lack the qualifications and experience for more professional roles). The social and environmental aspects and impacts of new technologies within the mining industry have not been systematically studied by social scientists (Holcombe and Kemp 2018; Keenan, Kemp, and Owen 2019). In practical terms, the industry may need to rethink its value proposition for Indigenous communities, since there will be fewer employment prospects. From a more anthropological perspective, this may also mean that terms like “Indigenous people” and “technology” become more fixed or contested categories in future extractive contexts. If technology is generally taken to imply change and progression (a more expansive and inclusive term), then some Indigenous people may find themselves increasingly placed in static slots as the industry and its supporting legal systems demand more repressive forms of authenticity to legitimize archaic concepts of indigeneity as the basis for sharing the benefits of extraction. In an increasingly connected and “overheated” world (Eriksen 2018), the task for anthropologists will be to better understand and ethnographically imagine the complexities of agency, scales, and relations that characterize mining as a multiplex and multisite field for research, and to provide more sophisticated accounts of the physical, social, ethical, and policy interfaces between resource development, communities, governance, and environment.

Further Reading

  • Appel, H., A. Mason, and M. Watts. 2015. Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Finn, J. L. 1998. Tracing the Veins: Of Copper, Culture, and Community from Butte to Chuquicamata. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Ødegaard, V., and J. J. Rivera Andía, eds. 2019. Indigenous Life Projects and Extractivism: Ethnographies from South America. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International.
  • O’Faircheallaigh, C., and S. Ali, eds. 2009. Earth Matters: Indigenous Peoples, the Extractive Industries and Corporate Social Responsibility. Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf.
  • Rumsey, A., and J. F. Weiner, eds. 2004. Mining and Indigenous Lifeworlds in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Wantage, UK: Sean Kingston.


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  • 1. The concept of the resource curse was first elaborated by British economist Richard Auty (1993). See also Karl (1997) and Ross (2003).

  • 2. These instruments include, for example, the United Nations Global Compact (UN 2004), the UN Framework for Business and Human Rights (Ruggie 2008) and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Ruggie 2011), the International Finance Corporation’s Social and Environmental Performance Standards (IFC 2012), and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2016). The ICMM has also contributed to the proliferation of policy instruments through its 10 Principles for Sustainable Development, position statements on Mining Partnerships for Development (ICMM 2010, 2011), and Indigenous Peoples and Mining (ICMM 2013).

  • 3. The situation is similar in other postcolonial contexts, including New Caledonia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Greenland. See Horowitz et al. (2018).