Filling a state-shaped gap? the governance role of mining companies in Mongolia's southern Gobi
Fiona McConnell (University of Oxford)
Ariell Ahearn Ligham (Oxford University)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on fieldwork conducted in the southern Gobi and engaging with debates around state presence/ absence and the relationship between legitimacy and 'stateness', this paper examines the extent to which mining companies fill a (perceived or real) governance gap in rural Mongolia.
Paper long abstract:
The Gobi desert in Mongolia has seen rapid development of extractive industries in recent years. This has resulted in dramatic changes both in the physical landscape of the Gobi region and in the economy of the Mongolian state. However, often overlooked is the changing spatialization of the state in this context of accelerated infrastructure investment. Drawing on fieldwork conducted around the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in 2016 and 2018, and a series of gold, zinc, copper and coal mines in Gurvantes in 2018-19, this paper examines the extent to which mining companies are perceived have a responsibility to take on state-like roles. This expectation - expressed by local communities and local government - has its roots in the role of state-owned companies during the socialist period in terms of their provision of community services, infrastructure and jobs. In the contemporary period the persistence of these expectations, alongside significant gaps in government reach in rural Mongolia, has led to tensions regarding roles and responsibilities of often foreign-owned mining companies in relation to the construction and maintenance of infrastructure, and the production of environmental knowledge and expertise. Engaging with debates around state presence/ absence and the relationship between legitimacy and 'stateness', this paper examines the extent to which companies fill a (perceived or real) governance gap, the scalar differences between the expectations that communities, local government and national government has of companies, and how the power to regulate the legitimate use of natural resources is shifting in contemporary Mongolia.
Geographies and anthropologies of the state: places, persons and nonhumans