Accepted paper:

'We have to be mining evangelists': Local defenders of a contested corporation

Authors:

Anneloes Hoff (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how a global gold mining corporation seeks to obtain a 'social licence to operate' for its strongly contested projects in Colombia. It focuses on the role and experiences of local workers of the Community Relations Department in legitimising and defending the corporation.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I explore how mining multinational AngloGold Ashanti seeks to obtain a 'social licence to operate' for its gold mining projects in Colombia, at a time in which the mining sector is the subject of heated public debate in the country. I focus on a group of people who are central to this process at the local level: the community members who work for the Community Relations Department. They are in charge of building local corporate legitimacy, which involves convincing their fellow villagers of the benefits of mining, and defending the company and the mining project to them. In the words of their manager, they are 'mining evangelists'. How do these 'villager-employees' position themselves towards 'their' company and 'their' community in the strongly polarised village context? How do they portray and defend the corporation to their community? How are they, and their work, perceived by other local actors? How do they justify their work to themselves and their social environment? I address these questions on the basis of a year of multi-sited and multi-scalar ethnographic fieldwork with local Community Relations teams of AngloGold Ashanti in Colombia. This took me from the shiny Bogotá headquarters to the lush mountains of Antioquia and Tolima, and from community information meetings on the benefits of mining to large community mobilisations against mining. Drawing on insights from inside the corporation as well as from daily village life, I provide an in-depth insight into the deeply contested nature of the social licence to operate.

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