Politics of mining and livelihood dispossession in the Northwest upland of Vietnam

Authors: Nga Dao*, York University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Development, Natural Resources
Keywords: Mining, accumulation by dispossession, water and land pollution, livelihoods, Vietnam
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 45
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The expansion of resource extraction and commodification in the northwest uplands of Vietnam over the last two decades has created and even normalized livelihood dispossession. Through my empirical examination of the social and environmental impacts of mining activities in two communes where iron ore and copper extraction are ongoing, the paper reveals that marginalized ethnic minority communities in these mining sites are confronting and coping with livelihood dispossession. The paper details how mining activities in this region have occupied or degraded local land and forests, directly impacting villagers’ livelihoods, while compensation from mining companies is insufficient for those who are now landless to survive on. I argue that mining—the process of extraction and export of mineral commodities—is structured by laws in ways that produce uneven forms of development. Land and water dispossession in this upland region is livelihood dispossession given that people now live off the land. It can also take other forms, including pollution, which effectively removes land and water from villagers’ lives altogether. The voice and role of affected people in monitoring mining activities—parallel counters to such processes of dispossession—have been virtually absent due to a lack of access to information on mining companies’ operations. These findings problematize the policy formulation processes that promote the national mining sector and draw attention to the state’s role in re/territorializing and re/producing frontier uplands.

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