Although largely overlooked in the recent literature, labour provides a useful entry point to study the connections and disruptions brought by mining capitalism. This panel aims to offer fresh insights on mining in Africa by studying labour in this sector in a historical and comparative perspective.
With a few exceptions, labour has been largely overlooked in the literature on the last mining boom in Africa. Following up the CRG panel on Labour markets in the extractive industries at ECAS 2017, and taking advantage of an incessantly growing interest on mineral production in Africa, we want to push the reflection on labour and capital further. From an analytical perspective, we believe labour provides a fruitful entry point to study the connections and disruptions brought about by mining capitalism. Connections emerge through the integration of African mineral production in global networks, while disruptions follow boom and bust cycles in mining. Both have severe implications for labour, as well as the relation between labour and capital.
Papers proposed for this panel may address one of the following questions:
1) Who controls labour? How are new labour policies put in place? How are they different from those of the past?
2) How is the labour market organized? How can we understand mineral production within African labour markets in general? What is the role of formal and informal labour?
3) How are changes in the domain of labour related to structural changes in global capitalism? What are the differences in this respect between, for example, gold, copper, or platinum mining?
The aim of this panel is to offer fresh insights on mining in Africa by studying labour and capital in a historical and comparative perspective.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Local business and expatriate (knowledge) economies in Burkina Faso´s mining industry
The paper looks at everyday labour practices of mining executives in Burkina Faso and their discursive strategies in drawing lines between themselves and 'the locals outside'. Education functions as a key category in setting up differences between potential workforces for (un)skilled labour.
Large-scale mineral extraction on the African continent has long been seen as largely disconnected from national and local labour markets (cf. Ferguson 2005/2006; Appel 2012). The recent trend and political goal of integrating foreign mining endeavors into local economies figures as both an aim and a result out of the agenda of the last 'ethical turn' (Dolan/Rajak 2016, 3) in corporate capitalism. Similar to other African countries, Burkina Faso recently witnessed a rise of local content policies discussed and applied by foreign large-scale mining firms and the national government. However, while local content as a concept officially aims at diminishing the multiple disruptions between the 'global' and the 'local' in the extractive industries, it does not automatically lead to an eradication of hierarchies, nor to inclusive labour markets. To illustrate this argument on a micro-level, this paper looks at everyday labour practices of mining executives in southern Burkina Faso and their discursive strategies in drawing lines between themselves and 'the locals outside'. Education or better a lack of it represents a key category in setting up differences between non-locals and locals and their potential recruitment for skilled or unskilled labour. In doing so, mining executives ascribe different forms of spatial belonging and temporality to oneself and others. Yet the resulting categories imply very tangible consequences in terms of (non-)access to particular forms of labour. The paper highlights the ambivalent dynamics of local content agendas in connecting and disconnecting local business and expatriate (knowledge) economies.
Gold Mining, Corporate Outsourcing and Labour Fragmentation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Through a case study of mining labour in South Kivu, this paper argues that the recent emergence of corporate outsourcing has facilitated the adverse incorporation and fragmentation of Congolese labour which has, in turn, weakened the collective strength of workers to resist their marginality.
In recent decades, the global mining industry has restructured away from vertical integration and towards the outsourcing of a range of activities and services to independent firms. While some scholars have welcomed this development as advancing the prospects for mineral-led industrialisation in low-income African countries, its potential effects on labour have been given less consideration. The proposed paper seeks to redress this gap, through a historical case study of the evolution of industrial mining labour in South Kivu Province of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo from the 1920s to today. Drawing on archival records, corporate documentation, and conversations and interviews conducted during twelve months of fieldwork in 2016 and 2017, the paper argues that the recent emergence of corporate outsourcing in South Kivu's industrial mining sector has facilitated the adverse incorporation and fragmentation of Congolese labour. This has, in turn, weakened the collective strength of workers to resist and counteract their marginality by feeding into and accentuating pre-existing class, spatial and kinship-territorial divisions. The cumulative effect is the near total absence of labour militancy at the mine, despite the fact that nearly half of the mine's workers experience informal status, subsistence or near-subsistence (and stagnant) wages, and poor access to benefits.
Traditional Authorities and the Politics of Labour Recruitment. The Case of Zimplats Mines in Mhondoro-Ngezi, 1999-2017.
Basing on ethnography the paper argues that uncertainty triggers reflexive action.Faced with the prospects of outsiders elbowing them out of jobs at the new mine,Mhondoro locals used protests and belonging in laying their claims to the jobs offered by Zimplats.Uncertainty is argued to be productive.
Using the case of Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats) in Mhondoro-Ngezi in Zimbabwe, this paper analyses the role played by chiefs as local traditional leaders in Zimplats' labour recruitment process. It sheds light on the nexus between Zimplats and traditional chiefs since the inception of the platinum giant and how chiefs exercised uncontested influence over Zimplats' labour recruitment. The paper argues that the ceding of labour recruitment by Zimplats to chiefly traditional authorities presented the all interested parties with a paradox situation. On one hand, cushioned by corruption in the chiefly office, the influx of outsiders onto the scene, led to the effective elbowing out of the locals from job opportunities. On the other, the company's perceived negative impacts of having a predominantly local general hand labour force presented Zimplats with a paradox situation of either improving its recruitment system to curb the influx of outsiders, or to turn its back on its initial commitment to employ locals. The paper argues that the company opted for the latter, as it perceived having a predominantly local labour force as disruptive to the production rhythm, especially during the rainy season. As the possibility of their effective elbowing out of the job opportunities dawned on the locals, pricarity and uncertainty consequently set in. Uncertainty was experienced as the locals stood outside the recruitment offices waiting for their names to be called out. However, the paper ultimately argues that uncertainty is not all dark and gloom but triggers reflex action to redress its root cause.
Safety policies in the Katangese mining sector: looking for an over-regulated society
This paper analyzes how safety regulations implemented in the new mining companies in DR Congo are perceived, adopted or contested by the employees. The focus will be on corporate policies regarding individual responsibility and over-regulation.
Safety policies are a key element of the codes of conduct of many of the new mining companies, which see safety training as a way to avoid (inter)national scandals. Safety is established by either enforcing disciplinary sanctions in the workplace or through training programs. Drawing on ethnographic research within different departments and the expat camp of a Sino-Australian company working in the Katanga region of DR Congo, this paper examines contemporary safety practices by applying a Foucauldian perspective. More specifically, the analysis will try to answer a central question: which strategies are in place to make the new policies acceptable to the workers and which modes of resistance do they incite? A new safety system implemented by the company, which is controversial among the workers, and dealing with an emerging culture of responsibility and overregulation, will be examined as a case study. Rules and regulations are perceived by many as a way to experience a modern and well-organized reality, in contrast to the disorder of the Congolese political and economic situation. By analyzing safety and management practices, this paper contributes to an understanding of mining companies as providing a form of government which promotes shared principles and values.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.