Conference Program

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3.3.1: Digging clean: Mining discourses and practices
Wednesday, 02/June/2021:
2:30pm - 4:00pm

Session Chair: Georgina Alonso
Technical chair: Furqan Asif
Location: Room 1

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Amazon Oil Violence and Ecuador’s Extraction Response During COVID-19

Danilo Borja, Conny Davidsen

University of Calgary

Ecuadorian oil extraction in the Amazon rainforest continued throughout the pandemic, amplifying an exploitative development model with now increased local pressure and less visibility to the public. In this context, this paper examines acts and notions of violence between pro-oil actors (e.g., oil companies and governments) and oppositional actors in defense of local livelihoods and land rights. The analysis understands violence as physical damage as well as acts of dehumanizing, othering, and claiming ignorance about others, while strategically using neocolonial constructions and assumptions as an instrument to advance oil drilling.

Ecuador´s Yasuni Amazon region is a site of clashing interests: simultaneously a global ecological hotspot, a major fossil fuel reserve under the rainforest floor, and home to the Waorani (or Huaorani), one of Ecuador’s most recently contacted Indigenous groups with some tribes continuing to live in voluntary isolation. In 2010, the government introduced policy reforms to oil drilling practices that shifted welfare and oversight roles from oil companies to the state. However, the government failed to fill these new local responsibilities with effective public services on the ground. Violent interactions ensued, now intensified by the COVID-19 crisis that lays bare insufficiencies and frustrations between the state, oil companies and local Waorani groups that developed throughout historical exploitation.

Our paper illustrates how violence has changed dynamics between the political actors, juxtaposed against the region’s history of narratives, conflicts and outcomes of recent policy reforms related to distribution of oil rents. The study draws on extensive empirical data from local and national-level observations and interviews with key actors, as well as literature and document reviews.

A Socio-environmental Justice Perspective into Ghana’s Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Space and the Growing Proliferation of Chinese Miners

Richard Kumah

Queen's University, Canada

In approximately 80 developing countries across the world, close to 100 million people derive their daily livelihoods from artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). In Ghana, small-scale mining of gold constitutes a major source of employment for millions of rural folks and contributes significantly to foreign exchange earnings. However, due to limited mining expertise of local miners coupled with state neglect, the sector is often characterized by widespread informality, social and environmental damage. Over recent years, there has been increasing proliferation of foreign gold prospectors (the largest concentration being Chinese nationals), in this indigenous sector against the backdrop that this is a sector reserved by law for Ghanaian citizens. This development has been widely noted to be aggravating social tensions and environmental degradation in many mining communities across Ghana. Whilst scholars and pundits often advance various causal theories to explain the origin, dynamics and persistence of informal artisanal and small-scale mining in Ghana and its recent forms of manifestation, seldom is this phenomenon studied as a matter of justice: equity, fairness and inclusiveness in natural resource allocation and governance. Through the lens of environmental justice, I draw insights from political theory of justice to unpack various spaces of systemic injustices against indigenous miners triggered by a bias mining policy regime that favours multinational corporate mining. I argue that, first, these injustices impede good environmental stewardship and participation in mineral decision makings and produces mineral policies that do not adapt to the needs and conditions of local miners. Secondly, these injustices render majority of the sector’s workers impoverish and terribly undercapitalized. Consequently, foreign infiltration in this sector is a current manifestation of these deep-rooted injustices against indigenous miners that must be addressed.

The Clean Development Mechanism and Carbon Enclosures

Colin Palmer

Saint Mary's University, Canada

This thesis examines the role the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an offsetting mechanism introduced by the Kyoto Protocol, played in facilitating carbon enclosure in the global South. The research focuses on the CDM as a case study, connecting a range of actors and disciplines in the service of decarbonization. The research in this thesis is both descriptive and explicative, comparing dominant assumptions about market environmentalism with critical political economy perspectives. The research, and this thesis, show that the CDM’s characteristics as a tool for capital accumulation resulted in uneven distribution of projects and green enclosure.

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