Conflict, Claims, and access to Gold - A Thesis on the conflict between artisanal miners and a mining company in North Mara, Tanzania

Master thesis English OPEN
Vibe, Daniel (2013)
  • Subject: Dispossession, large-scale mining, gold, mining conflict, artisanal and small-scale mining, Social Movement Theory, claim-making, protest, contestation, legitimacy, displacement, rights

Since the beginning of the 1990s, liberalisation of the mining sectors in Africa has resulted in a large influx of foreign mining companies, bringing them into conflict with existing primitive artisanal mining activities, which is an important livelihood strategy on the continent. This study focuses on the conflict around the North Mara Gold Mine situated in the north-western Tanzania, one of the most severe and violent cases of conflict between artisanal miners and a mining company in the world. This study seeks to find the causes of this conflict and identifies three stakeholders in the conflict; the artisanal miners in the area, the mining company African Barrick Gold operating the mine, and the Tanzanian government, which all claim access to the gold. The sparse academic literature on this topic is reviewed along with studies of conflicts between mining companies and local communities and studies of livelihood of artisanal miners. This review finds that the legislation in Tanzania to be of great importance to the conflict, as it gives preferential treatment to foreign large-scale mining companies, while dispossessing artisanal miners of their livelihood. The most utilised theoretical approaches in the relevant literature are Corporate Social Responsibility and Resource Conflict Theory but both fail to acknowledge the human agency aspect by which conflict is relational and depending on the actors' perceptions of the circumstances of the conflict. Accordingly this thesis turns to the concepts of contestation, protest, and claim-making from Social Movement Theory. Within this theoretical framework violence can be an expression of protest, entailing feelings of wrong-doing that call for redress. These feelings are socially constructed under perceived circumstances, legitimising the feelings, thus ultimately legitimising the way of articulating the claims as well. The aim of the study therefore, is to analyse how the stakeholders each legitimise their claims. Acknowledging the perceptions of the stakeholders as being subjective this study takes on a constructionist position. The historical origins and development of the conflict are reviewed and the legal context of the conflict is discussed in relation to how it affects the claims of the stakeholders. The analysis relies on secondary analysis of qualitative interview data to combine the resources of various fieldwork. This study finds that the three stakeholders legitimise their claims of access to the gold on legal and non-legal grounds different from each other. The perceived legitimacy of the claims ultimately justifies violence as a mean to gain or secure the access to the cold, making the conflict a manifestation of a clash of articulated claims.
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