Accepted paper:

Technologies of mobility in small-scale gold mining

Authors:

Marjo de Theije (VU University Amsterdam)
Sabine Luning (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the small-scale gold mining practice in the Guyanas by focusing on mobility of gold. This sheds light on the complexity and interaction of scales of authority, economic opportunity, and how miners go about in the gold fields. The miners need to control the technology of mobility.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper we discuss the small scale gold mining practice in the Guyanas by focusing on mobility of gold. Gold crosses national borders, border mountains and border rivers, without much ado. The borders are permeable, mining technologies, equipment, produce, all go through. But at the same time they are concrete realities when it comes to the divergent national policies with respect to small-scale gold mining in the region, between repression, containment, criminalization and tolerance. Then the borders become incentives for mobility, sources for lucrative trading relations, or means for hiding. Mobility is a prerequisite to be a successful miner in this context. However, there are always limits to it. In the Guyanas mobility is also ethnically determined. For foreigners, outsiders, visitors, the territory for mining is more accessible than it is for maroon miners, whose identity is related to the traditional territory of their group. Finally, gold can become a source of immobility too, e.g. when it is invested in an excavator or bulldozer that cannot be transported easily. Or when a miner 'left the gold in the engine' to take it out later, but finds there is no gold anymore when he wants to leave. The focus on mobility of gold, sheds light on the complexity and interaction of scales of authority, economic opportunity, and personal freedom, and how miners go about in the gold fields. The miners need to control the technology of mobility.

panel P031
Mining technology: practices, knowledge and materials across and beyond the mines