The price of becoming a mineral: coltan, money and plural temporalities in Sierra Leone
(University of Reading)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the temporal process of coltan-making, an high-value mineral extracted in Sierra Leone at the artisanal level. It shows how the process of coltan- and price-making is based on the possibility of managing the multiple temporalities of coltan mining.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines the temporal process of coltan-making, an high-value mineral extracted in Sierra Leone at the artisanal level. Among the miners, doubts and perplexities about the real name and actual industrial uses of this mineral go hand in hand with the uncertainties that characterise its exchange value. Indeed, one of the main problems that torment these workers is how to determine the true value and the right price of a mineral that offers "fast money". Drawing upon fieldwork experience in the mines of Sierra Leone (2007-2016), this paper focuses on the strategies adopted by a mining community to gain a degree of control over the local price of coltan. It shows how the process of coltan- and price-making is governed not only by market dynamics and powerful global actors, but also by local miners, traders, and traditional authorities' economic strategies. The cornerstone of these strategies is based on the possibility of managing access to the mines and (de)synchronizing the temporalities of coltan mining. By drawing upon the recent anthropological and philosophical debates on time, I endeavour to employ and develop the notion of plural temporality in order to grasp the material, ecological and imaginative aspects of the coltan production.
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives