Coexistence and conflict between artisanal mining, fishing, and farming in a Peruvian boomtown

Authors: Aaron Malone*, Colorado School of Mines, Nicole M Smith, Colorado School of Mines, Eliseo Zeballos Zeballos, Universidad Nacional de San Agustin de Arequipa
Topics: Natural Resources, Environment, Development
Keywords: Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), livelihoods, coexistence, conflict, Peru
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 45
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A global boom since the early 2000s has spurred major mining projects as well as major social conflicts, with South America standing as a central example on both fronts. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has also boomed, but academic research on mine-community conflicts has seldom considered the ASM sector. This paper examines the dynamics of conflict and coexistence between mining and other rural livelihoods in a Peruvian ASM boomtown. We analyze ASM-livelihood dynamics through the lenses of economic and development tradeoffs, water, land, immigration, social and power dynamics, and history and previous conflict – all themes identified in the literature on conflicts around large-scale mining. ASM activity did not physically displace communities or other livelihoods, as often occurs with large-scale mines. We found a baseline acceptance, or social license, for ASM activity in our study site, based on perceptions of economic improvement and historic incorporation of informal mining within the local livelihood mix. However, this acceptance was fragile, threatened by the rapid pace of ASM growth, immigration and social change, and uncertainty about water contamination that could undermine other livelihoods. The basic perception that ASM could coexist with other livelihoods – whether or not this plays out in practice over the long-run – stands as a fundamental contrast to large-scale mining, in which conflict seems increasingly inevitable.

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