Accepted paper:

Geocapital: geological expertise, financialised valuation & extractive industry frontiers


Paul Gilbert (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the incorporation of financial valuation techniques into the geosciences and geological education. It traces the impact of particular mineral deposit valuation models on patterns of extractive industry exploration and the expansion of 'geocapitalism'

Paper long abstract:

While a great deal of attention has been given by STS scholars to the forms of value created when capitalist enterprise intersects with the biosciences (Birch & Tyfield 2012; Petersen & Krisjansen 2015; Sunder Rajan 2006), the question of how geoscientific expertise is reshaped by encounters with 'mining capitalism' (Kirsch 2014) has been given far less consideration. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and an analysis of materials used to teach valuation methodologies to geoscientists, this paper examines mineral deposit and mine valuation models that are used by extractive industry analysts and investors, and the role that academic geoscientists and geostatisticians have played in their development. I argue that these models serve not only as a way to incorporate 'financialised valuation' (Chiapello 2014) into geoscience education, but have significant consequences for the shape that extractive industry investment takes as it seeks out new frontiers. This is, in part, because financialised mine valuation - and mine planning - models encode assumptions about the advantages of rapid extraction, and position those with the capacity to run these models (more often extractive industry firms than host states) as best-placed to discern the optimal rate and pattern of resource extraction. The paper concludes by reflecting on the role that financialised geoscientific expertise has in facilitating an expansive form of 'geocapitalism'

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