The anthropology of mining tends to focus on environmental impact and social change for affected communities. This panel explores precarious labour for workers in resource extraction industries. In what ways do making a living from mining shape work, aspirations and future orientations?
Resource extraction industries provide configurations of economic, political and social relationships where notions of value in anthropology and indeed the values of anthropology are most obviously demonstrated (and contested). Applied anthropologists work with NGOs to contest mining projects or to limit their environmental impact or with companies as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, while scholars of anthropology scrutinise kinds of social change associated with resource extraction (e.g Kirsch 2014). However, to date, the experiences of workers in mining industries have received relatively less attention. A 'good' mining company (either genuine or as a form of greenwashing) exercises innovative CSR, is conscious of its impact on the environment and affected communities (see Welker 2014). Yet, the ways in which mining companies regard their workforce draws less scholarly investigation. This panel addresses this lacuna by focussing on various forms of labour within the mining industry. We seek to examine a continuum of experiences that range from semi-formal extractive livelihoods to professional specialists. Common to these experiences is a growing sense of precariousness due to the financial structures the determine the ways mines operate. By foregrounding labour in the anthropology of mining, the panel contributes to studies of precarious of work, exploring how 'the precariat' has expanded to include highly skilled and relatively well-paid workers (see Hann & Parry 2018). We also consider the implications of making a living in the mining industries for aspirations and future orientations of workers.