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Mining Capitalism

Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics

Stuart Kirsch
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Mining Capitalism
    Book Description:

    Corporations are among the most powerful institutions of our time, but they are also responsible for a wide range of harmful social and environmental impacts. Consequently, political movements and nongovernmental organizations increasingly contest the risks that corporations pose to people and nature.Mining Capitalismexamines the strategies through which corporations manage their relationships with these critics and adversaries. By focusing on the conflict over the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea, Stuart Kirsch tells the story of a slow-moving environmental disaster and the international network of indigenous peoples, advocacy groups, and lawyers that sought to protect local rivers and rain forests. Along the way, he analyzes how corporations promote their interests by manipulating science and invoking the discourses of sustainability and social responsibility. Based on two decades of anthropological research, this book is comparative in scope, showing readers how similar dynamics operate in other industries around the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95759-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    The corporation is one of the most powerful institutions of our time. Corporations organize much of the world’s labor and capital, shape the material form of the modern world, and are a prime mover of globalization. But corporations are also responsible for a wide range of harmful effects, including the use of technologies with deleterious consequences for human health and the production of environmental hazards that threaten the planet. The situation is exacerbated by neoliberal economic policies that view the market as the most efficient means of solving these problems and assert that effective management of these issues by the...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Colliding Ecologies
    (pp. 15-52)

    The Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea has discharged more than two billion metric tons of tailings, overburden, and waste rock into the Fly River system since the mid-1980s, polluting the river corridor from the mine to the sea, a distance of one thousand kilometers (Tingay 2007, 5). Nearly two thousand square kilometers of rain forest and savannah along the river have been affected by flooding and die-back (OTML 2005, 4). The pollution is eventually expected to transform the entire floodplain, approximately 3,800 square kilometers, an area larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island (Tingay...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Politics of Space
    (pp. 53-83)

    The campaign against the Ok Tedi mine was one of the first protest movements against the mining industry to become an international cause célèbre. Previous anti-mining activity usually remained localized, like protests against strip-mining coal in Appalachia. But with the rapid globalization of the mining industry during the 1980s and 1990s, political opposition became increasingly international in scope. This chapter describes how the campaign against the Ok Tedi mine was able to form alliances with international NGOs in what can be called the “politics of space.” Such networks are particularly effective at challenging transnational corporations because of their ability to...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Down by Law
    (pp. 84-126)

    On May 5, 1994, Rex Dagi filed suit against BHP in the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. The complaint represented Dagi and the other members of his clan from Iogi village on the Ok Tedi River against the mining company. The plaintiffs alleged that BHP, as the majority shareholder and managing partner of the Ok Tedi mine, was responsible for polluting the Ok Tedi River, the floodplains, and the surrounding rain forest. BHP was alleged to have committed a private nuisance, a public nuisance, trespass, and breach of a duty of care in their operation of the mine....

  9. CHAPTER 4 Corporate Science
    (pp. 127-158)

    How is it possible that despite spending tens of millions of dollars on environmental research and monitoring, the scientists employed by Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. failed to predict the impending environmental catastrophe or even to accurately report on it while it was occurring? Their failure calls into question the way that science is deployed by mining companies, and by extension, how corporations strategically exploit science. I begin this chapter by presenting material from two comparative examples. Scientific research conducted by the tobacco industry has been thoroughly discredited (Brandt 2007; Proctor 2012). Yet given the ethical responsibilities associated with research on...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Industry Strikes Back
    (pp. 159-187)

    In July 1997, the London-based consulting company Control Risks, which advises Fortune 500 companies on political risk management, published the reportNo Hiding Place,describing how transnational corporations face unprecedented pressure from NGOs to adopt “the highest environmental, labor, and ethical standards” (Bray 1997, 1). Using case studies from the extractive industries, the report argues that criticism from NGOs poses a significant risk to corporate reputations, that legal activism has become a standard component of NGO repertoires, and that international NGOs are as much a part of corporate risk profiles as the communities with which they interact (Bray 1997, 39,...

  11. CHAPTER 6 New Politics of Time
    (pp. 188-223)

    This chapter compares political strategies employed by critics of the mining industry. The first strategy is the politics of space, which links actors in multiple locations. The resulting networks are comprised of individuals, communities, nongovernmental organizations, experts, lawyers, and others. They benefit from the complementary mobilization of resources, discourses of persuasion, access to power, and forms of leverage deployed by their participants (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Kirsch 1995, 2007; Tsing 2004). The ability to enroll members in multiple locations makes these networks especially effective in challenging transnational corporations wherever they operate. The accomplishments of these networks, however, may be limited...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 224-234)

    This book analyzes the relationships between corporations and their critics in an era of neoliberal capitalism. Civil society plays a pivotal role in questioning and challenging the deleterious consequences of corporate conduct for human health and the environment. Corporations respond to their critics through social technologies that protect their economic interests and minimize their reputational risks. They ignore, refute, or appropriate the terms of the critique, manipulate scientific research, and seek to co-opt or delegitimize their opponents. Consequently, strategies that succeed in one campaign are circumvented in the next, demanding constant innovation on the part of NGOs and social movements....

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 235-238)

    After a largely uncontested and spectacularly profitable decade, Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. faced unexpected challenges in 2013 from the Papua New Guinea government, which sought to gain control over the company’s economic assets, including the mine. On September 18, the parliament passed the Mining (Ok Tedi Tenth Supplemental Agreement) Act of 2013, which nationalized the Ok Tedi mine and attempted to repatriate the $1.4 billion trust fund in Singapore. The 2001 law granting BHP Billiton immunity from prosecution for environmental damage was also overturned. The state assumed ownership of the Ok Tedi mine on January 1, 2014, but its effort...

  14. APPENDIX: Timeline of the Ok Tedi Mine and Related Events
    (pp. 239-244)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 245-260)
  16. References
    (pp. 261-288)
  17. Index
    (pp. 289-314)