Accepted Paper:

Mineral deposits to money mines: capitalization and investment climate rankings  


Paul Gilbert (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

This paper traces the imaginative, calculative and legal work undertaken to transform a mineral deposit into a profitable ‘money mine’, following the processes by which investment climate rankings and political risk imaginaries are folded into the ritual of capitalization, via the discount rate.

Paper long abstract:

This paper traces the imaginative, calculative and legal work that must be undertaken in order to transform a mineral deposit into a profitable 'money mine'. It follows a group of extractive industry investors intent on opening up new resource frontiers during a period of heightened 'resource nationalism' (2012-14), when the appeal of further investment in established mining territories was diminishing. The paper begins with an ethnographic account of the spatio-temporal imaginary according to which 'investment climates' in frontier territories are mapped onto racialized hierarchies of difference (from 'backwardness' to 'Europeanization'), by mineral exploration firms and industry analysts. It goes on to describe how these racialized hierarchies are folded, through the discount rate, into the ostensibly calculative 'ritual of capitalization' (Nitzan & Bichler 2009), which allows the net present value of specific mines to be determined. The paper argues that the capitalization of extractive industry firms reflects a confidence in future revenue streams, based not only on analyses of a given geological deposit, or the perceived capabilities of a management team, but on the level of 'political risk' that is imagined and quantified for a specific jurisdiction. Attending to the ritual of capitalization allows STS scholars to bring ethnographic studies of the techno-imaginative configuration of particular assets (in this case, prospective mines) to bear on recent debates in political economy which place futurity - or legal claims on future income streams - at the heart of analyses of financialized capitalism (e.g. Atkinson & Whalen, 2011; Nesvetailova, 2014).

Panel T005
Turning Things into Assets