Free working paper on mining, CSR and politics out now!

The Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre have just published a working paper by yours truly on ‘Corporate social responsibility and political settlements in the mining sector in Ghana, Zambia and Peru’. It’s really a first cut at some of the findings from my work in 2014 which I’m currently writing up into some papers and a book. The abstract reads thusly:

This paper explores and compares the political effects of corporate social responsibility in the mining sector in Zambia, Ghana and Peru. The paper adopts a political settlements approach to answer the question: How do the CSR practices of mining companies affect local and national political settlements? After setting out the main tenets of the political settlements approach, this is articulated with literature on the politics of natural resource extraction and CSR. The paper then sets the wider context of the international drivers of increased attention to CSR in the extractive sector and before exploring the impact of the CSR practices of mining companies on the political settlement in Ghana, Peru and Zambia at the national and local levels. The final sections offer a comparative discussion of what the findings mean for understanding CSR’s role in inclusive development and natural resource governance. The paper argues that recent increased CSR expenditure does not necessarily translate into development for those living near mining companies, particularly in contexts of exclusionary political settlements, of which all case studies exhibited characteristics. There are a great many institutional and contextual limitations placed on the ability of CSR to deliver development for affected communities. Across the case studies, the opportunities CSR programmes afford tended to aimed at those with the greatest capacity to disrupt operations rather than those with the greatest need. In concluding, I argue that, despite some obvious limitations, the political settlements approach can generate new insights through its focus on the politics of development, and, in particular, the politics of stability.

Available here – Go check it out! All feedback welcome.

Presenting in Vancouver next week

Next week I’ll be presenting at the Mines and Communities conference at UBC in Vancouver. I have the much coveted last presentation of the day slot. My abstract reads thusly:

In this paper I argue for a more political understanding of the intentions and impacts of corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending in the mining sector in developing countries. These arguments are the result of a 3-year research project examining the drivers and impacts of international voluntary standards in the metals mining sector. This research has examined the decision making and development impacts of mining companies in Ghana, Perú and Zambia headquartered overseas. Data was gathered through over 180 confidential interviews, mainly with metals mining company employees at all levels, but also local communities, consultants, lobbyists, academics and government regulators. These interviews examined business strategy, regulation, CSR decision making and the impacts of CSR programmes and were supplemented by analyses of corporate plans, reports, policy briefs and the grey and academic literature. I begin by briefly elaborating the drivers of international voluntary standards in the sector before focussing on their impacts. Examining CSR projects and spending reveals four main ‘types’: public relations, instrumental, developmental and political. Each of these has different motivations, intended effects and development impacts. Importantly, each of these has political effects, interacting with local and national politics in different ways, with some having a profound impact. Yet, the current debate ignores or plays down the political effects of CSR. I argue that this is a mistake. If we are to understand and improve the development impact of CSR we must understand both the implicit and explicit political motivations of CSR spending, and engage in a clearer political analysis of the societies within which mining companies operate. Only with these clearly mapped can we understand the development potential of CSR spending. I conclude by pointing some ways to move towards a more ‘politically literate’ debate on CSR.

If you are around, do come along. I’ll try and record it so I can post here afterwards. I’ll also blog what I learned after the conference.

This is my first dalliance in attempting to talk the mining industry about the politics of CSR. I think this is really important for both understanding CSR working towards a more ‘developmentally effective’ set of programmes and approaches. We shall see how it goes.

Organising a conference panel at the AAG 2015

Do join us:

Call for Papers: 2015 Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, April 21-25

Session Title: When Logics Collide: Political and Economic Geographies of Extraction


Matt Himley, Illinois State University
Tomas Frederiksen, The University of Manchester


This session seeks to advance analyses of the relations and tensions between the economic and political geographies of extraction. Extractive economies manifest a “punctuated and discontinuous geographical expression” (Bridge 2011: 318), with mining and hydrocarbon capital not smoothly circulating across expansive territories, but rather through a patchwork of particularly ‘rich’ subterranean locations. Concurrently, the political systems though which capitalist extraction is carried out and governed typically maintain spatial forms that are distinct from the selective and irregular geographies of extraction itself. While within these political-legal geographies the territorial state, as owner of the subsoil in most cases, plays a central role, recent decades have witnessed a proliferation of differently scaled actors and institutions involved in extractive industry governance. This session aims to shed light on the frictions and mismatches between extraction’s economic and political geographies, as well as on the ways in which these tensions contribute to struggles generated by extractive activities. As the extractive economy expands these struggles are proliferating, for example as national governments strive to secure a ‘fair’ share of extractive rents, or subnational groups fight to receive just compensation for extraction’s socio-environmental ills. At the same time, the expansion of extractive industry does not just challenge existing political structures and systems but makes them anew, contributing to the creation of new, multi-scalar polities and novel, differently scaled regulatory architectures. This session, then, seeks to explore the contradictions and – at times generative – tensions between the political and the economic within the context of mineral and hydrocarbon development. We invite studies from both historical and contemporary contexts. Topics that papers might address include, but are not limited to:

– Strategies by different types of national governments to engage the global and geographically ‘restless’ nature of extractive industries

– The growth of global-scale norms and standards for extractive economies, and the implications of these for justice struggles in extractive regions

– Independence movements spawned by the flows of materials and resources that extractive industries produce

– The recent rise in ‘resource nationalism’ and associated struggles between states and subnational groups in extractive regions

– The new polities and decision-making structures created in the context of corporate social responsibility programs rolled out by extractive firms

– The relevance of Harvey’s (2003) conceptual distinction between territorial and capitalist logics of power for understanding extractive industry dynamics.

Please email abstracts of no more than 250 words by Friday, October 10 to Matt Himley ( and Tomas Frederiksen (

Note: We expect to seek the contribution of a discussant for this session; as such, presenters will be asked to submit a written paper several weeks before the conference.

Upcoming conference on mining in Africa

In late April I’ll be presenting some of my work on CSR and global standards in the mining industry at a conference at Edinburgh University on ‘Mining and Political Transformations in Africa’. Do come along! The deadline for abstracts has passed but you can still register to attend and, from what I’ve seen of the line up, it looks to be a very interesting conference with representatives from both industry and academia.