Accepted paper:

The return of the local: large-scale mining and autochthony debates in Sierra Leone

Authors:

Robert Pijpers (University of Hamburg)

Paper short abstract:

While mining environments are habitually characterized by intensified mobility of people and capital, this paper discusses how, in this mobile environment, particular forms of local rootedness (immobility) become more prominent.

Paper long abstract:

While mining environments are habitually characterized by increased mobility of people and capital, this paper discusses how particular forms of local rootedness (immobility) become more prominent. When the iron ore mines of Marampa Chiefdom, Sierra Leone, reopened in 2006, the area quickly developed into major center of economic activity. Not surprisingly, besides the influx of foreign capital and labour, from across the country people moved to Marampa in search of jobs or other economic opportunities. In this environment, which was thus characterized by increased mobility dynamics, ideas of localness quickly emerged. Indeed, strengthened by an (inter)national discourse regarding ´local content´, an idiom of localness, and therefore an increased emphasis on those who are not mobile, took center stage. These ideas came to the fore, in particular, in debates and competition over particular opportunities, such as employments or forms of compensation for negative impacts. However, who or what qualifies as local is not always a straightforward give, but rather something open to negotiation. Drawing upon the dynamics that emerged in Sierra Leone in the decade following the reopening of the Marampa iron ore mines, this paper shows that increasingly mobile and globally connected mining environments are, partly because of this, simultaneously marked by a ´return of the local´.

panel P024
Mining mobility: the movement of people and expertise in the context of extractive projects [Anthropology of Mining Network]