Undermining community heritage and identity? The troubled reopening of the Parina Valley zinc mines
University of Essex, United Kingdom
When in 1982 the last zinc mine of the Parina Valley (in Northern Italy) closed after over a century of activity, a way of life and the community identity of the Valley’s mining villages were brought to an end. Hundreds lost their jobs and the younger population migrated to larger cities. The Valley attempted to boost its touristic potential, but its local economy subsequently dwindled. The mining heritage was kept alive with the opening of two small museums, and the annual celebration of the ‘miners fete’. Thirty years later a new mining future was proposed for the Valley. In 2014, following the sharp rise in zinc prices and amid a revival of the European mining industry, an Australian company showed interest in the mines and started ongoing works to recommission them and commence new extraction activities.
Drawing on observations, informal conversations with local people and media analysis, this paper presents a preliminary exploration of the impact the mines’ reopening has on the Valley’s local community, its economy and environment. We engage with and build on scholarship that explores the interconnections between a renewed trend in extractivism largely headed by overseas corporations, local heritage spawned by traditional mining practices, and broader community interests. In particular, we draw on the green criminological literature discussing potential negative externalities relating to resource extraction in both social and environmental forms and initiatives that promote social responsibility and sustainable practices. Our aim is to make sense of evident tensions amid corporate-community relations regarding the distribution of benefits the project may bring and fear of the erosion of heritage, the colonization of public space and of the environmental legacy of the project.
Alliance Building and Intersectionality within the Brazilian Anti-mining Movement
University of Eastern Finland, Finland
In 2013, the National Committee of Defense of Territories over Mining was created in Brazil as a response to the national Mining Code draft that has been on hold in the National Parliament. Seven issues around environmental and social safeguards were objected to in the Mining Code, with nearly 200 organisations, institutions, and politicians signing the document. The National Committee works as a consensus-building movement incorporating a variety of different perspectives. It unites different agendas for the transformation of the national mining framework and legislation.
In this article, I examine the composition and ideologies of this unique cross-issue alliance building, discuss their milestones (events and factors) through time, and reflect on how the alliance has framed the Brazilian mineral context within this timeline to attract supporters and allies.
The analysis demonstrates how solidarity among members alleviate the tensions between ideological discrepancies and created a political intersection to a some exent given the great diversity of agendas they represent.
Unlike most Latin American studies around natural resources conflicts, our results contribute gathering evidence on how anti-mining movements perform at the national level instead of local protest and grassroots activities. The results also contribute to the overall social scientific mining research community, especially the ones aiming to better understand conflict escalation and stakeholder responses to corporate behaviour.
Teetering on the Climate Edge: The Case of Segregated Roma Communities facing Environmental Injustices in Europe
Research Institute for the Quality of Life, Romania
This paper articulates a climate justice perspective that challenges current understandings of climate change responses in Europe. Climate justice entails the recognition that the disruptions caused by climate change affect individuals and communities unevenly, with poor ethnic groups often being the most affected. The paper draws on Saskia Sassen’s (2015, 2014) theory of the systemic edge, defined as a point beyond which a condition becomes so extreme that it cannot be comprehended by the common measures of governments and experts and is rendered ungraspable (Sassen, 2015, 173). In analogy, the concept of climate edge is proposed, which is a spatial configuration in which environmentally and socially deleterious conditions become concentrated due to exclusionary social practices, and where societal safeguards against climate change fail systematically, exposing excluded populations to its impacts. The climate edge concept thus raises a critical problem: as the socially induced vulnerability increases, society’s scientific and technical apparatus, as it is reflected in current climate change responses, becomes unable to detect and even less to address this vulnerability. The manifold human crises connected to the metabolism of carbon – from the extraction of fossil fuels to mitigation and adaptation policies – can be seen as instances of climate edge emergence. This presentation focuses on one of the emblematic cases of accelerated vulnerability creation that occurs ‘beyond the pale’ (Filcak, 2012), as has been recently documented for Roma groups physically expelled from Romanian cities or with Romanian Roma immigrants in Italy. The paper provides a preliminary substantiation of the climate edge concept and of its theoretical promise.
The problem of red muds and dust in France through the prism of Environmental Justice?
Our research explores the suitability of environmental justice (EJ) as a broader and integrative framework (Schlosberg, 2007 ; Taylor, 2000) for sociological analysis in France, where none of the movements claim to belong to EJ. The study focuses on the case of the Alteo factory in Gardanne (France) which produces alumina from bauxite, polluting the local environment with toxic residues which are radioactive, caustic, and loaded with heavy metals. Numerous actors are involved: factory workers, local residents, a national park board, recreational users of the park, fishermen, civil organizations, local and national politicians, the media, environmental NGOs, scientists. The bone of contention is the factory itself but also its two major dumpsites, one containing red dust on land and one pouring red mud in the sea in the middle of the national park. Our proposal aims to display how the stakeholders frame the problem (Snow, 2000) and argue to be recognized as “Problem owners” (Gilbert et Henry, 2014). We will show the interest of the EJ framework to understand their disputes about the legitimacy of this capitalistic industrial production, the damages on the natural environment and human health, and their perceptions of these. It allows us to redefine the environmental and sanitary problems through the prisms of class, gender, racial and ethnic relationships at a local and also a more global scale (from bauxite mining in Guinea to profit-making in a US hedge fund - the factory's owner). How are the issues of justice and solidarity between these scales articulated?