Coercive Expertise and the Paradox of Responsible Extraction in the Global Ruby Trade
Brian Brazeal (CSU, Chico)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores how expert knowledge on artisanal mining is produced by mining companies and consultancies and deployed against miners, even as it purports to benefit them. It is based on fieldwork conducted with ruby miners, traders and consultants in Mozambique, Thailand and Europe.
Paper long abstract:
A transnational gemstone mining company markets it products as responsibly sourced and trumpets its commitment to transparency, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. A human rights law firm has brought a suit against the company alleging years-long pattern of gross human rights violations perpetrated against villagers and artisanal miners on and around their ruby mining concession in Mozambique. A consultancy has advised the company on socially-sensitive management of issues related to artisanal miners, based on research conducted while the alleged abuses were occurring. Another consultancy prepared a "Competent Persons Report" for potential investors highlighting the difficulties associated with managing illegal artisanal mining on the company's concession. A third consultancy prepared a series of recommendations for artisanal mining policy in Mozambique on behalf of the World Bank. Their recommendations were framed in terms of women's empowerment, the prevention of child labor and environmental sustainability. However, the policies they proposed would make it nearly impossible for anyone to conduct small scale mining legally in Mozambique. This paper is based on multi-sited and multi-scalar ethnographic fieldwork conducted with ruby miners in Mozambique and ruby traders in Thailand as well as research to be conducted at the corporate offices of mining companies and consultancies across Europe. It explores how expert knowledge about sustainability, responsibility, transparency and traceability in mineral commodity chains is deployed against small scale miners, even as it purports to work for their benefit. It also explores how these claims are contested by miners, traders and others who would speak on their behalf.
Mining mobility: the movement of people and expertise in the context of extractive projects [Anthropology of Mining Network]