- Emilia Skrzypek (University of Queensland / University of St Andrews) email
- Nick Bainton (The University of Queensland) email
This panel investigates ways in which ideas of "the state" as a stakeholder, or a central actor in resource relations are formed, negotiated and enacted, and how they subsequently influence events and shape outcomes at resource extraction projects.
As an investor and a regulator, the state plays an important part in influencing events and shaping outcomes at resource extraction projects. Its presence or, as is often the case, absence from the project site can be very telling, as are ways in which ideas of "the state" become articulated through a range of bureaucratic, institutional and social relations.
Anthropology has played a large part in revealing the ambivalence and contradictions of stakeholder categories at resource extraction projects. Anthropologists described them as products of a mutually constitutive process of attributing meaning and eliciting responses, animated by a wide and varied matrix of social processes. As organisers of this conference reminded us, states are imagined as institutional and bureaucratic formations, inherently embedded within wider sets of relations, representations, and practices.
Thinking through the ways in which individual and collective state actors influence events and shape project outcomes, or find themselves compromised at different points in the process of pursuing multiple and overlapping agendas, this panel aims to bring together ethnographic contributions that look at ways in which ideas of the state are constituted, enacted and/or challenged around resource extraction projects. We are particularly interested in the types of responses different ideas and enactments of "the state" elicit in resource extraction localities, and the impact this has on broadly conceived resource relations.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Coping with closure: towards an anthropology of mine closure
The Australian state has traditionally shown limited interest in local level interactions between extractive industries and local communities. Several high profile mine closures have begun to shift this paradigm, compelling alternate interactions with industry and community groups.
"The excitement and fanfare that surrounds the opening of a new mine is never present when it finally closes" (Laurence). This pragmatic statement frames the challenge for industry, governments and locally affected peoples to shift this dominant 'front-end' approach in order to actively account for the collateral social, political, and economic impacts that almost inevitably occur when a mine closes. The need to reimagine the practice of mining in order to positively re-frame the legacies that are left because "it's not over when it's over", to borrow the title of a World Bank Mining Report (2002), is a pressing one. The impacts and negative legacies of mining are increasingly under scrutiny by a growing civil society and an active local citizenry who are not always 'excited' when a mine opens and where effective closure may be more important to them than effective operations.
While the rise of the mining industry has become central to modernity, there has been a growing recognition by many within industry, by government and notably by civil society, that business as usual is not viable. Yet, currently, mine closure experts typically focus on bio-physical issues, there is no equivalent in the social arena which includes: town normalisation, post-mining economies, stakeholder engagement, heritage management, and agreements with local and Indigenous communities. How mining companies approach the social aspects of mine closure, or 'social closure' as it is becoming known, will shape the way the industry is perceived, which will in turn affect the ability of companies to develop mines of the future.
Broken promise man: aboriginal engagements with miners and the state in Australia's North
Division or conflict between miners and Aboriginal people in northern Australia is reflective of shifting patterns of agency, power and perspective across a range of players including the state. This paper explores engagements between communities and the inconsistent state and corporate sectors.
Division and conflict between miners and Aboriginal people in northern Australia is reflective of shifting patterns of agency, power and perspective across a range of players including the state. In the post land-rights and post Mabo era, the visiting politicians in Australia's remote northern communities have been supplanted by company men. Safari suits have given way to high viz shirts as the state withdraws from its remote servicing interests and responsibilities in favour of and deference to corporate community benefits packaged up as social licence to mine.
Conflict between Aboriginal community values and mining is common and heavily shaped by the internal dynamics present within communities shaped by cultural obligation as well as broader socio-economic and political forces of the state or the corporate sector in its absence. In my view communities are increasingly exposed, accessible to and exploitable by mining companies given the multiple and often contradictory or absentee roles played by the state as sponsor, investor, and regulator.
I explore these processes drawing upon case materials from notable mining projects in Australia's Northern Territory. From state compelled national interest projects to corporate engagement and an ambivalent state, I conclude that the legacy experienced by most Aboriginal communities from their engagement with mining projects is largely negative based on the capacity of all parties to straddle the precarious divide between communal obligation and modes of economic "advancement" shaped by the corporate sector yet determined by the state.
A present absence: the ambiguous role of "the state" in Queensland's unconventional gas boom
Queensland's unconventional coal seam gas (CSG) developments have created regulatory challenges. CSG projects outpaced government departments and pushed them beyond capacity. Some actors thus experienced "The State" as 'organised irresponsibility', which lead to perceptions of a partly absent state.
The rapid development of large-scale unconventional coal seam gas (CSG) projects across Queensland has sparked an unprecedented resource boom. This boom affected numerous host regions, including the Western Downs. Among its residents and the wider public, the CSG boom has led to a variety of concerns regarding the industry's potential impacts. Due to various factors, many of those concerns, at least initially, remained unanswered. CSG projects, nonetheless, progressed rapidly, which created significant uncertainty for those with concerns. These uncertainties have been a root cause of a complex CSG risk controversy. Some actors have therefore questioned the ambiguous role of various Queensland State departments and the local council.
In this paper, I unpack this ambiguous role of "the State". I begin with an outline of the regulatory challenges created by the novel geographical and temporal dimensions of CSG developments. I subsequently develop the argument that "the State" was experienced by many actors as being outpaced by the CSG boom. Furthermore, concerns emerged about State departments and the local council operating beyond capacity in their assessment of potential impacts. This limited role does, however, stand in contrast to their responsibility of managing resource developments on the public's behalf and in its interest. Some actors consequently experienced "the State" in terms of an 'organised irresponsibility' (Beck 2005; 2009) that lead to perceptions of a partly absent state. Understanding how CSG developments challenge the regulatory apparatus can deliver important insights for the role of the state within increasingly complex energy landscapes and climate change.
Constitution through neglect: the PNG LNG project and the impact of an absent state
The PNG LNG project is simultaneously constituted as both flagship achievement and proxy indicator of the endemic failings of the PNG state. A tangible absence of the state in PNG's Hela Province has the effect of amplifying the perception of the state as criminally negligent source of discontent.
The Papua New Guinea Liquefied Natural Gas (PNG LNG) project has the curious role of being both the flagship achievement of the Papua New Guinean state, while at the same time representing the endemic failures, absence and neglect of the state in relation to its people. During fieldwork undertaken in PNG's Hela Province through 2016 I was able to document an extraordinarily uniform response to the presence of the PNG LNG project, accompanied by an almost deafening absence of both state and company. Rather than reduce the amount in which the state was being imaginatively constituted, this absence had the effect of magnifying the idea of the state as a monolithic, criminal and unreachable entity that existed as the ultimate source of all discontent. As the impact of state absence steadily increased, the imagined form of the project's behemoth developer, ExxonMobil, steady diminished. Eventually the form of the state as punishing absence became amplified to such an extent that the vacuum that was being created by this absence forced the state to materialise in the form of its ministerial representatives who turned up to face a torrent of threats and abuse at the hands of the people who had come together to shut down its most vital organ: the PNG LNG project itself.
The pacification of Porgera
Argues that the state's role at the Porgera mine has shifted to focus on policing to the exclusion of other services. This indicates broader shifts in state/society relations in Papua New Guinea.
The paper examines the Porgera valley of Papua New Guinea, which is home to a large gold mine. It argues that conceptions and practices of the state have shifted over the past two decades. The state's primary goal now is to police the valley and suppress violence, with other services (e.g. education) decreasing in salience. This departure from the independence-era view of the state importantly shifts relations between stakeholders. Local populations and the mine find themselves aligned against violent disorder, while grassroots activists find the identity 'indigenous' increasingly attractive and align with international activists since they no longer view the state as an advocate for their interests. These changes speak to broader trends in contemporary PNG.
Ambivalence, tension and enthusiasm: land owners and local government at the Lihir gold mine, PNG
In this paper we consider the relationship of the state of Papua New Guinea to the Lihir gold mine as it is manifest through the local level government and its leaders.
In this paper we shall discuss the range of ways that people on Lihir have understood, embraced and rejected new forms of local government over the last century. While concentrating on the ways that leadership has been manifest in local communities in the context of the mining project that began in the mid 1990s, we argue that the patterns that are obvious in recent years have a long history. At the same time we shall present case studies that illustrate the fluidity of community leadership and the tenuous hold that all 'leaders' have on public acceptance of their authority. We explore the roles of a succession of charismatic leaders over the past fifty years and the ways that they have reinvented 'tradition' to serve their own political ends.
Refracted responsibilities: the role of the state in planning for the Frieda River Mine, PNG
In the absence of a state mining companies will often reluctantly take it upon themselves to fulfill various development and service delivery roles in order to secure and maintain support for their projects. But should they be expected to fulfill those roles, and can they be trusted to do so?
Frieda River Project is a resource extraction project in the making. The exploration work in the area has been ongoing since it began in 1969, bringing new people and introducing new ideas to this geographically remote corner of Papua New Guinea. For the local communities, these introductions marked a shift away from time of the ancestors and created a series of opportunities for new kinds of livelihoods. Social mapping exercises identified and named local communities as the project landowners, while the ownership of the mineral deposits remains with the PNG government. It is, however, the mining company that has the capacity to extract the minerals and turn Frieda's deposits into "development".
Based on my conversations with community, corporate and state actors involved in the process of planning for the Frieda River Mine, this paper looks at ways in which ideas of the state and state's responsibilities were negotiated and enacted in the project locality, and responses this elicited among the local communities. It shows how the government representatives refracted their responsibilities onto the corporate agents and how the company reluctantly took over the state's various development and service delivery roles in an attempt to secure and maintain governmental as well as local stakeholders' support for the project. Finally it discusses how the company used the rhetoric of Corporate Social Responsibility in an attempt to limit its liabilities and claim that the lack of state involvement at Frieda made many of the infrastructure and service delivery programmes inherently unsustainable.
France, New Caledonia and medium and large-scale mining projects: comparing political and extractive relations to nickel mining sector with Papua New Guinea
This paper aims to provide a reflection on presence and absence of the French and local state in different types of mining projects in New Caledonia and what kind of ideas of the state is implied in claims addressed to theses authorities. It also hopes to begin a comparison with Papua New Guinea.
In New Caledonia, the nickel mining sector offers an interesting way to examine the presence and absence of the state. This French overseas territory is currently involved in a decolonization process with a referendum on independence scheduled for 2018. This process translates into separate transfers of state powers to the territory, one of them being the regulation of mining activities. At the same time, mining is a political and economic issue for the pro-independence party and has led to the construction of a new nickel processing plant in the Kanak-led Northern Province. So that, nowadays, mining activities are distributed between three processing sites, altogether involving transnational corporations, French state and local authorities at diverse degrees, and small and medium extractive operations conducted by independent mining companies.
This paper offers to analyse how this diversity illustrates different views regarding the role of the state, which state is concerned, and what ideas of its role is implied, in relation to the nickel mining sector.
Based on the results of qualitative studies carried out in New Caledonia since 2013, we will examine the positions of the French state and the New Caledonia local scales of government regarding mining activities. Then we will review specific claims made to these forms of state by mining companies and communities.
Hence we hope to interrogate meanings of resource nationalism in New Caledonia and to compare it with the Pacific situation, especially Papua New Guinea.
Of kings, God and vigorous presidents: an indigenous quest for meaning and minerals in the Bolivian Andes
For centuries indigenous communities in the Bolivian Andes have ritually reproduced the fetish of benevolent yet distant government. Canadian mining explorations put this local understanding of the state in jeopardy because the Bolivian government sees fit to engage actively in the ensuing conflicts
With the stroke of a pen the current Bolivian president Evo Morales put an end to the Andean ambitions of the Canadian junior mining company South American Silver. Issuing decree 1308 he reverted to the state the firm's mining concessions and stationed military troops in the region quelling a dispute that had pitted indigenous community against community. The state had never come closer disturbing local experiences of (central) government. The indigenous communities around the Mallku Quta mine had been reproducing the fetish of moral government at least since the 18th century when the indigenous revolutionary Tomás Katari evoked the Spanish King to justify his revolt against the abuses of Andean landlords and local officials. In rituals the indigenous population still generates these perceptions identifying the Bolivian president with the Christian God. Kings and presidents are expected to behave like benevolent yet distant government. However, Evo Morales gets actively involved in the mining conflict of Mallku Quta. He does so convincingly that people start to address him as 'big landlord' Evo representing a cultural disposition with quite different connotations of authority and reciprocity. How far can landlord Evo go before he reaches the limits of government legitimacy as defined by its indigenous fetish? This paper analyses the continuities and shifts of indigenous experiences of the state which are challenged in a major Andean mining conflict.
Swedish mining industry and government perspectives on indigenous rights: complacency and uncertainty
Mining companies in Sweden do not currently apply the principle of Free Prior Informed Consent. The research explores how mining representatives characterise indigenous rights as unnecessary in Sweden through the spatial and temporal distancing of indigenous peoples to 'other' geographies.
There are growing societal expectations, as encompassed in international law and norms, that corporations must seek the consent of affected indigenous communities before undertaking resource extraction activities on indigenous territories. This research will discuss some preliminary research findings on the existing knowledge and attitudes within the Swedish mining industry and Swedish Government concerning the question of indigenous rights, and specifically that of the principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). It is informed by a decade of academic-activist engagement with Saami communities impacted by mining, and draws upon key informant interviews.
Mining companies operating in Sweden do not currently respect or implement the principle of FPIC. The research explores how mining and state representatives justify and reconcile this through various, and at times contradictory, discourses. On the one hand, informants articulate a complacent rationale that human rights protections are superfluous in Sweden. On the other hand, they simultaneously argue that a respect for FPIC would create uncertainty and thereby threaten the existence of the mining industry. This places indigenous Saami communities in a double bind. In the case of the former, they are not seen as eligible for indigenous rights protections. In the case of the latter, they are considered an impediment to progress and development.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.