Illegal economy of gold mining in Kyrgyzstan
(University of Roehampton)
The aim of the paper is to develop a theoretical framework for examining illegal gold mining industry in Kyrgyzstan. While not a new phenomenon, in recent years the rapid expansion of extractive industries has created new tensions in the legality of ecological, political and economic practices in Kyrgyzstan. The recent conflicts between local people and mining companies reveal that official companies do not always operate legally, as they pay bribes for obtaining mining licenses, and do not have all required documents to operate. This is tied with the role that the state organizations and representatives play in the shift between legality and illegality in the mining industry in Kyrgyzstan. According to preliminary interviews, certain laws regulating extractive industries have been revised in favour of large corporations. This reveals that, within the governmental discourse, development is tied to extractive industries. As such, state representatives became actors in providing licenses through informal networks. My paper suggests that by using economic sociology lens (Beckert and Dewey, 2017), we can understand the dynamics of illegal gold mining. Instead of looking at corruptive state representatives and illegal small-scale miners separately as in some other studies, it will consider them as actors within the illegal extractive economy. By using this framework, I will focus on the whole spectrum of illegality: from the role of legal institutions in supporting and maintaining the illegal practices of gold mining to the illegal gold mining outlawed by the state. This will bring to light the many ways in which extractive industries are embedded in illegal practices.
Political Economy of Mining and Energy in the Post-Soviet Space