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.

Listen to my PE3C talk on the ‘political ecology of the firm’ from July

So I realise I never uploaded this talk I gave in July. Which is a shame as I think it was quite good. It is, however, unashamedly theoretical and niche – it’s for researchers who are interested in political ecology theory, rather then the broader audience of mining and CSR that most of my blog is for. You can listen to the talk here:

I’m presenting tomorrow at the #DSA2016 in Oxford

I’ll be presenting a paper on How does corporate social responsibility affect national politics? The case of mining in Ghana, Peru and Zambia at the annual Development Studies Association Conference in Oxford tomorrow. The abstract reads thusly:

This paper examines the national politics of mining and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Zambia, Ghana and Peru. The paper draws on research conducted as part of 3-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship looking at the role of international standards in mining company behaviour in developing countries. It begins by outlining political settlements theory, focussing on elite bargaining and the drivers of political stability. The paper then uses this conceptual framework to explore the ways in which CSR and the behaviour of mining companies affect national politics and natural resource governance in Ghana, Peru, and Zambia. Geographical and historical specificity are argued to be central to understanding the ways in which CSR affects political settlements in these countries, in particular the role of memory and the timing of resource booms. These are explored in each case study country to show the different meanings and functions CSR takes on in different regulatory contexts before examining how mining companies use CSR to attempt to minimise regulation and taxation burden, effectively aiming to produce enclave forms of extraction. Here, CSR is argued to be a useful window into the political activities of firms and an important part of how they engage in the national-level politics of host countries.

I’m in session P19 in 4-5.30pm Room 7 (Examination Schools). See you there!

I have a book contract!

I have, today, signed a contract for a book with Oxford University Press. This is great news. This book is provisionally entitled Risk and responsibility: The politics of mining, corporate social responsibility and development. Though, this may well change as one of the bits of feedback from the reviewers was that they didn’t like the title. (Perhaps I should steal less from Austen for the title. Dickens instead perhaps?).

Risk and responsibility draft cover

Almost certainly what the book won’t look like


Here is a brief synopsis from the proposal:

Mining is at a pivotal moment. The recent commodities supercycle, in which mining companies expanded across the globe and boosted their CSR investment and activities, has ended. This expansion created multiple struggles and tension and has increased pressure from investors, national governments, civil society and local communities on mining companies to improve their environmental and social impacts. Expectations of mining company behaviour have been raised and are unlikely to fall. This book examines the drivers and consequences of the recent growth of CSR in the extractive industries. Risk and responsibility brings together literatures in geography, development studies and politics to examine of the political and development impacts of CSR in the mining sector. The book draws on over 200 semi-structured confidential interviews conducted in Canada, Ghana, Peru, USA and Zambia between 2011–2014 focussed on 6 case-study companies, to examine the functions and meanings CSR takes on across different scales of action. At the international level, CSR aims to attract capital and reduce shareholder risk; at the national level, it is used to improve the image of mining companies and curry favour with populations and regulators; at the local level, CSR profoundly reconfigures local political institutions to produce stable operating environments. In the mining industry, strategic pressures have come to be understood through the rubric of risk, for which CSR has come to be seen as the strategic tool which can unite the responses required of companies towards a range of stakeholders. Over eight chapters, Risk and responsibility examines the interplay of risk and responsibility at the heart of the political life of corporations.

It’s a ways off yet. My current best guess would be that it comes out in 2018.

I have a podcast!

A first! A few weeks back I gave the departmental seminar in my department as I’m coming to the end of my current research project (though the writing will continue for some time) and they recorded it and put it on Soundcloud. So, should you wish to hear my recent thoughts on mining and CSR, do have a listen. Should you wish to hear them again, you can download the podcast for your repeated listening pleasure. It has received some favourable mentions on the Twitter already. From people I have no idea who are, which is nice.



The irony is that seen as this was my first recorded talk to be distributed online it is also one of my least well prepared (It was recorded very shortly after my recent job interview). Which, I think, means that I come across much more black and white and critical than I would have intended. Ah well. Here’s hoping I have more time to get my message straight before it’s recorded for posterity next time. This has inspired me to record the talks I’ll be giving over the summer and upload them.

My (2010) PhD thesis is now available online

Me, in a more innocent time

Me, in a more innocent time

When I submitted it, there was the potential that some journals would treat copies online as having already published and

therefore not accept my proposed articles.  I thus set it to have a 5 year embargo. This passed a few weeks ago but I still can’t find it in the University of Manchester repository so, taking matters into my own hands, I’ve added it to my publications page.

You can find it here.
My thesis quite different from my current work and looks at the historical rise of copper mining in colonial Zambia. I look at the advances within the mining industry and colonial state that were required to turn a bit of remote African bush into a global centre of commodity production.

The proper abstract is:

This thesis examines the co-production of social inequality and an extractive space on the Zambian Copperbelt in the early twentieth-century. The rapidity and scale of the development of world-leading copper mines on the Copperbelt was described at the time as “one of the greatest mineral developments ever experienced” and took many observers by surprise. This thesis examines the origins of this boom. It argues that the success of mining on the Copperbelt is not only a result of the decisions and actions of miners and colonial officials in the 1930s to 1960s, but largely a result of those taken in the decades prior to this ‘heyday’. The keys to understanding this rapid transformation lie in the political and economic interventions and innovations which colonialism brought to (what was then called) Northern Rhodesia in the decades preceding the advent of large-scale mining. In this earlier period, dozens of mining and other commercial enterprises failed, but in their ruins the seeds of commercial success were sown. In this period too, many of the structures which generated and perpetuated the inequality and poverty which characterise contemporary Zambia were created. The success of extractive capitalism in Northern Rhodesia rested on changing regimes of access to and control over resources. Interventions in socio-ecological relations were a focus of British colonial rule in Northern Rhodesia and created the political and economic ‘infrastructure’ which enabled mining to take off rapidly when rich ore was subsequently discovered. This thesis explores how the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt was produced as a space for natural resource extraction in the colonial period through attention to the military, political and economic practices which produced regimes of access to, and control over, resources. These interventions were key to instantiating new capitalist relations and asserting British rule in colonial Zambia. To examine the conditions in which the Copperbelt boom was produced, this thesis draws on existing work on this transition. In drawing on this work, this research offers a political ecological critique of the development of Zambian Copperbelt. The thesis highlights the complexities of the struggle to produce both extractive capitalism and stable colonial rule and how the production of an extractive space on the Copperbelt had long-term consequences for the territory’s development.