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Frontiers of Extraction and Contestation: dispossession, exclusion and local resistance against MIDROC Laga-Dambi Gold Mine, southern Ethiopia


Regassa, Asebe (2022). Frontiers of Extraction and Contestation: dispossession, exclusion and local resistance against MIDROC Laga-Dambi Gold Mine, southern Ethiopia. Extractive Industries and Society, 11:100980.

Abstract

Resource frontiers in Ethiopia have served as spaces of state power consolidation and wealth accumulation and as manifestations of asymmetrical power relations between state and society. Successive Ethiopian regimes pursued high-modernist development models under broader narratives of civilizing ‘backward’ societies and ‘transforming’ ‘unproductive’ spaces into productive resources. Although much of state intervention in the pastoralist frontiers was effected through large-scale commercial farming, extractive industries have become another dimension of frontier expansion. Ethiopia's liberalization of its mining economy in the 1990s has attracted private investors to the politically marginalized peripheries in the country. Accordingly, MIDROC Laga-Dambi Gold Mine, the largest private gold-producing company in the country, was in 1997 granted a 20-year lease over 485 km2 of land in Guji zone, Oromia National Regional State. The company soon developed an exclusionary approach in its relations with local communities with little investment in social services, local employment and environmental sustainability. On the contrary, its strong link to the macro-political order and reliance on coercive power in subduing local resistance enabled it to create an enclave where it operated without accountability for two decades. This paper analyzes the interplay between the macro-political order and local practices and power constellations at the mining site, and how such interplay reconfigured state-society relations, leading to conflict and eventual suspension of the mining company's license in May 2018. The paper argues that the company's exclusionary approach was rooted within the political formation of the Ethiopian state that considers such territories as resource frontiers (full of resources but empty of people). The paper asks how questions of entitlement at the local level, mining micro politics, and the national political order are entangled and produce different forms of contestation and negotiation. It concludes that this entanglement shapes how mining companies operate and also how states formulate mining policies.

Abstract

Resource frontiers in Ethiopia have served as spaces of state power consolidation and wealth accumulation and as manifestations of asymmetrical power relations between state and society. Successive Ethiopian regimes pursued high-modernist development models under broader narratives of civilizing ‘backward’ societies and ‘transforming’ ‘unproductive’ spaces into productive resources. Although much of state intervention in the pastoralist frontiers was effected through large-scale commercial farming, extractive industries have become another dimension of frontier expansion. Ethiopia's liberalization of its mining economy in the 1990s has attracted private investors to the politically marginalized peripheries in the country. Accordingly, MIDROC Laga-Dambi Gold Mine, the largest private gold-producing company in the country, was in 1997 granted a 20-year lease over 485 km2 of land in Guji zone, Oromia National Regional State. The company soon developed an exclusionary approach in its relations with local communities with little investment in social services, local employment and environmental sustainability. On the contrary, its strong link to the macro-political order and reliance on coercive power in subduing local resistance enabled it to create an enclave where it operated without accountability for two decades. This paper analyzes the interplay between the macro-political order and local practices and power constellations at the mining site, and how such interplay reconfigured state-society relations, leading to conflict and eventual suspension of the mining company's license in May 2018. The paper argues that the company's exclusionary approach was rooted within the political formation of the Ethiopian state that considers such territories as resource frontiers (full of resources but empty of people). The paper asks how questions of entitlement at the local level, mining micro politics, and the national political order are entangled and produce different forms of contestation and negotiation. It concludes that this entanglement shapes how mining companies operate and also how states formulate mining policies.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Geography, Planning and Development
Social Sciences & Humanities > Development
Physical Sciences > Economic Geology
Physical Sciences > Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
Uncontrolled Keywords:Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law, Economic Geology, Development, Geography, Planning and Development
Language:English
Date:1 September 2022
Deposited On:04 Oct 2022 10:37
Last Modified:27 Apr 2024 01:39
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:2214-790X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2021.100980
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)