Accepted paper:

Making coltan. Technologies, expertise, and knowledge in Sierra Leone mining

Authors:

Lorenzo D'Angelo (University of Reading)
Fenda Akiwumi (University of South Florida)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the making of coltan in Sierra Leone. We show how the production of coltan is not exclusively linked to large amounts of foreign capital and sophisticated mining technologies, but also to local knowledge, expertise, and artisanal miners' livelihoods.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the making of coltan in Sierra Leone. We show how this mineral cannot be examined separately from the broader contexts and issues that contribute to make it an economic resource. These include geopolitical dynamics, geological and mining expertise, funding sources and adequate facilities for geological surveys and laboratory analysis, industrial and technological innovations for exploration and extraction of minerals, and global market opportunities. We further show how the production of coltan, a highly strategic mineral, is not exclusively linked to large amounts of foreign capital and sophisticated mining technologies, but also to local knowledge, livelihoods and rudimentary extractive techniques that nevertheless, make extraction possible.

Drawing upon fieldwork in an artisanal coltan mine of Sierra Leone and archival research of a variety of historical and current Sierra Leone government documents, this paper argues that producing coltan is the outcome of a complex and historical process comprising different types of expertise, knowledge, technologies, and geopolitical agendas enacted by a multiplicity of local and global actors.

panel A07
Techno-scientific expertise and geographical imaginaries in the making of new resource frontiers