Informality in the governance of space: the mining town of Cananea, Mexico

Authors: Valeria Guarneros-Meza*, De Montfort University
Topics: Political Geography, Latin America, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: mining, extractivism, governance, social cohesion, water
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Based on in-depth interviews and observation carried out in Cananea, north-western Mexico, the paper aims to understand the modi operandi of the mining company, Buenavista del Cobre, and government actors to maintain the status quo, which is perceived to favour the enterprise vis-à-vis the social and environmental wellbeing of local communities. The paper’s focus originates from a broader riddle in the recent extractive industry in Mexico: While the country has a legal framework that promotes participatory institutions in mining and hydrocarbon related mega-projects, an increase in violence has been reported. The latter contradicts the development of non-violent conflicts that these types of institutions are supposed to attain. The paper argues that this contradiction derives from modi operandi of private and state actors. Our proposition is informed by urban sociological and political scientist debates on informality as practice to identify the mutually constitutive nature of (local) state-society relations. Cananea has been historically a centre of labour conflict between local workers and the mining enterprises as well as the source of environmental conflict that results of water contamination and scarcity produced by mining activity. The paper will explore the extent to which labour and social movements in the region, alongside state-led participatory institutions (participatory budgeting), enrich practices (such as negotiations) that enhance modi operandi and which in turn feed the status quo and shape the ‘bridging’ and ‘bonding’ of social cohesion as well as of local space.

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