Accepted Paper:

When the music's over, turn out the lights? Recent mine closures in West Africa  


Johannes Knierzinger (Universität Wien)
Zongo Tongnoma (University of Ouagadougou)

Paper short abstract:

Based on findings on recently “closed” mining towns in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana, we will develop a critical approach to the analysis of mine closure, focusing on changing control over infrastructure and its implications for political participation.

Paper long abstract:

Since the end of the mining boom in the aftermath of the subprime crisis, and enforced by the fact that at least 25 major mines in the Global South were already scheduled for closure before the mining boom started in the early 2000s, mine closure has become an increasingly important issue. Research in Guinea, Ghana and Burkina Faso revealed the particularly critical situation in the mining towns of Fria, Obuasi and Kalsaka whose mines closed recently. Since then, social services and infrastructure collapsed and the cities experienced a profound economic downturn. This situation is similar to a least a dozen other African mining towns. Based on our own research we will present a critical approach towards mine closure.

Almost all of the existing literature on mine closure focuses on the so-called "business case", underlining the economic viability of "proper mine closure" for companies and governments (World Bank/ IMF 2002). This includes crucial demands such as the "de-enclaving" of infrastructure or the creation of restoration funds already when founding mining towns.

However, a critical analysis has to go beyond these "technical" recommendations in order to equally question the "political sustainability" of mining towns in the wake of a new ("light") paternalism based on CSR and shareholder capitalism as well as the rise of investors from newly industrializing countries. The notion of "infrastructural power" (Mann 1984; Agnew 2005) will provide a starting point for the analysis of these new configurations.

Panel P077
(Infra)structures of Extraction in Africa