The extrastatecraft of artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Activity: Talk or presentation / Performance / SpeechesTalk or presentation - at conferenceAcademic


Discourse on the future of mining in the Congo is inflected by the claim that mining will only flourish if guaranteed by the might and mechanisms of industrial capital. Underpinning this view is nostalgia for a return to corporate welfarism but also a frustration over the meagre returns and overbearing toil demanded by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). Policy experts tell us that ASM can be made more productive if reforms dwell on the formalization of the activity yet, local critics expose this claim as masking a desire for the improvement of the conditions of extraction with the will to govern a recalcitrant population of ASM mine labour. To draw attention to how competing optics about the future of mining in the Congo Copperbelt obfuscate not only the past but also the contemporary realities on the ground, I explore how artisanal mines have emerged as active sites of conflict and spaces of struggle over resources, infrastructure and identity among state, non-state, market and non-market actors. My interest is in how multiple forces outside of and in addition to the state intervene with considerable power and administrative authority to reorder infrastructure and production within ASM sites. Drawing on the literature on extractivism and infrastructure governance, I sketch out the history of changing paradigms of control in an artisanal mine on the outskirts of the city of Likasi. I argue that a look at how state agents manage and mutate the affairs of the state in an artisanal mine as they encounter powerful competing interests offers a window to analyzing historical change in the Congo Copperbelt.
Period18 Jun 2021
Held atUniversity of Oxford, United Kingdom


  • Mining, Copperbelt History, Democratic Republic of Congo, Artisanal Mining