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  • Nick Cuba

What's New in Social Science on Extraction - 12/31/2019

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

One new bit of programming on this blog for 2020 will be regular, periodic posts that collect and connect recent topics of discussion and research in natural resource extraction and society. With these we aim to be broad and comprehensive in scope, and so ask you to please send in any relevant stories, journal articles, or social media posts to: Thank you!

"Global-scale remote sensing of mine areas and analysis of factors explaining their extent." (2020). This internet-released article in Global Environmental Change written by Tim Werner and an international team of researchers in Australia and the Netherlands delineates the area of various mine-related land uses using high-resolution satellite for 295 mines around the world. The size of features such as pits, tailings storage, water ponds and heap leach pads are calculated and compared across sites, and regression analysis is used to predict these values with independent variables such as production volume, duration of mine, and production value.

"Argentina: thousands protest in Mendoza wine region over axed water protections." The Werner et al. article points toward the need to understand the footprint and distributed impact of second-order facets of mining including related infrastructure development and water use. The last few weeks have seen large protests in the Mendoza province of Argentina, where legislators recently passed changes to Ley 7722 to allow for much more extensive mining that would be able to make use of cyanide in mining production processes. The linked Guardian article describes the reasons driving the protests, including the risks to the water supply of the region's wine industry. Related to this, a recent paper from Cuba et al. maps out the spatial footprints of water-based risks from extraction in Honduras.

The Mendoza protests that have led to the governor putting the brakes on changes to Ley 7722 have been varied in form and include a threat from regional beauty pageant queens to withhold their labor.

Methods of informal protests characterize much of affected peoples' participation in processes of negotiating the presence or form of extractive development. This is often simply due to the lack of formal mechanisms for participation, as is the case in Ghana described by Asaah Sumaila Mohammed in a recent article: "Local Actor's Interest and Negotiation Strategies for Benefits in Ghana's Oil and Gas Sector" (pdf download).

"Re-thinking complex orebodies: Consequences for the future world supply of copper." (2019). Mendoza is one clear example of the types of responses to anticipated social and environmental impacts of mining when extraction expands into new landscapes. In this paper in the Journal of Cleaner Production, Valenta et al. argue that simple expectations that link the amount of copper production to price ignore the multiple, pervasive sources of concurrent environmental and social risk inherent in the expansion of mining into new landscapes, compared with intensifying production in place.

"History's Largest Mining Operation Is about to Begin." In the Atlantic, Wil S. Hylton lays out the existing scientific efforts, industry development, and regulatory frameworks exploring the topography, ecosystems, and mining potential of the deep seabed. This mode of extractive development, framed as imminent, is one for which the distribution of costs and benefits is far from clear. Deep-sea mining is certainly a departure from past models of extraction with respect to human communities, its likely impacts on other-than-human life extend to the Hadal zone of the ocean. The methods to extract minerals from the seabed and redistribute tailings over large areas introduce threats to species and ecosystems that complement those posed by commodity trade and consumption to familiar terrestrial species (see e.g. this PeerJ article from Estrada et al.). They also offer an example of human activities as geologic, in the potential mineral changes wrought.

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