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Mining ‘Waste’: Repurposing Residues in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining
University of Hamburg, Germany.
University of Campinas, Brazil.
Leiden University, The Netherlands.
University of Hamburg, Germany.
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2021 (English)In: Etnofoor, ISSN 0921-5158, Vol. 33, no 2, p. 13-39Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Gold mining, like all other forms of mining, is strongly associated with the production of a wide range of residues, whether this concerns (toxic) waste materials or the environments transformed in pursuit of gold. Frequently, these residual products, such as soil, mud, rocks, and water, as well as the environments from which they are extracted or where they are deposited, appear as waste, cast aside or abandoned, rendered as useless by-products or destroyed lands. In this photographic essay, we build on recent insight regarding the fluid character of waste by extending analysis into both the domains of materials and of space because not only can specific materials be repurposed as resources, but also specific spaces can be transformed from sites of abandonment to sites of production (or vice versa), whether for mining or other activities. These photographic series show how different actors repurpose material and spatial residues. By centralising images of processes of repurposing, this essay nuances and offers a counterweight to dominant visual narratives. These typically focus on environmental and social damage, and often take a perspective ‘from above’ as they largely draw on aerial images. In doing so, these narratives tend to flatten or even erase local complexity and heterogeneity, and risk reproducing received negative stereotypes about artisanal and small-scale mining and miners. Importantly, as will transpire throughout the essay, the phenomena and processes depicted in our images shape and are shaped by different social, political, economic, technological, environmental, and historical relations and dynamics. These include, for example, former mining trajectories, gendered production relations, miners’ socio-economic positions, the involvement of external actors, and the introduction of new capital, knowledge and technologies. Ultimately, this illuminates the necessity of approaching ‘waste’ in fluid, relational, and transformative terms as material and spatial endings are turned into new beginnings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2021. Vol. 33, no 2, p. 13-39
Keywords [en]
waste, gold mining, residues, Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM), transformations, ethnograph
National Category
Social Anthropology Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nai:diva-2596OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nai-2596DiVA, id: diva2:1620896
Projects
Gold Matters
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 462.17.201
Note

Funders: Belmont Forum, NORFACE (New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe).

Available from: 2021-12-16 Created: 2021-12-16 Last updated: 2022-01-04Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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