ELHN 2021: LiM Papers’ abstracts

We publish here the abstract of the papers that will be presented during the LaborInMining panel sessions in the next ELHN WORCK Conference in Vienna, beginning on the 30th of August 2021.

Session 1. Environmental and Social Impacts of Mining in Time and Space I

1. “Potosí and its logic of long-term extraction

by Rossana Barragán (International Institute of Social History, Netherlands) & Paula Zagalsky (National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, CONICET, and Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina).

Contact: rba@iisg.nl; pzagalsky@gmail.com

Abstract: Silver from Potosi begun to be exploited for the global market since at least 1545 and with its rises and falls continued until the end of the eighteenth century. After its significant decrease in nineteenth century, tin gave rise again to a new mining cycle of lead, tin, silver and other ores in the twentieth century that are extracted, until the twenty-first century, from the exact same mountain. Different minerals had clearly their life cycle but the extraction process itself continues until now in Potosi. The depletion is then of some minerals but not from the site and the region itself. Here it seems that there is “no end” after more than 475 years. This is a challenge to think in an unceasing extraction of a living mine and a city built around it.
In this paper we intend to analyze the silver cycle from 1545 until 1812 (the Spanish colonial period) based in our own research but also in several edge contributions to Potosi’s historiography. Three major themes would be discussed. First, the economic and social changes in a vast regional landscape as a consequence of the silver production for the world. Deep alterations with clear consequences in terms of peoples’ mobility due to labour migration and coercion. Second, how a labour social order established initial conditions in terms of property and labour allocation that changed through time, being even challenged. However, at the same time, people of all social levels worked around silver but in general as a center to extract money in order to fly and leave. Fortunes were made but they went away constantly. The inhabitants of Potosi’s city seem to be renewed constantly from the top but also from below of the societies and from hundreds of villages living around this economic pole. Third, how this economic, social and technological logic of quick extraction had long-term environmental consequences imposing processes of intensification and precarisation of its exploitation.

2. “Timber, Food, and Metals. Comparing impacts of mining extraction in two early modern Italian districts, 1400-1800”.

by Gabriele Marcon (European University Institute, Italy)

Contact: gabriele.marcon@eui.eu

Abstract: In the early modern period, mining activities had a strong impact in social, economic, and environmental frameworks. While economic and social historians have particularly focused on the emergence of a ‘working class’ in response to the capitalistic ways of production of early modern mining enterprises, scholars have also adopted a broader scope and analysed process of environmental changes in mining sites. This latter approach has been particularly helpful in shifting the analytical framework of environmental history from a Western-based, nineteenth- and twentieth-century perspective to preindustrial mining activities scattered throughout the globe. To compare labour ecologies across diverse areas of the world and to adopt a long-term perspective in mining history may unravel insightful aspects that overcome matrix environmental narratives of mining based almost exclusively on the transformation of the physical landscape. Indeed, this approach broadens up the analytical framework of environmental history by underscoring the importance of social and ecological practices, including mobility patterns, food consumption, housing accommodation, working conditions, and the introduction of new technologies. This paper fits into this renewed interest by comparing the social, economic, and environmental impacts of mining in two mining sites located in the Italian peninsula during the early modern period – the Agordo mining district in the Republic of Venice and the mines of Pietrasanta in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It adopts a long-term perspective that encompassed moments of intensive extraction, low-conjunctures, and revaluation processes of mining activities between the fifteenth and the eighteenth century. This comparative and long-term approach will give insights into two main research strategies. First, it seeks to understand how individuals and institutions entangled with natural resources in different moments of the mining exercise. I will draw on first-hand archival material as well as technical manuscripts in order to shed light on exploitation and preservation policies of natural resources such as timber, water and metals with a particular focus on the involvement of local actors in environmental practices – including local and foreign miners, mining officials, and local communities. Secondly, I will analyse to what extent new technologies, labour organizational aspects, and habits of food consumption informed the social framework of mining communities in a long-term perspective. In order to do so, the paper will present case-studies regarding the mobility of German-speaking miners to the Venetian and Tuscan districts between the fifteenth and the seventeenth century.

Session 2. Environmental and Social Impacts of Mining in Time and Space II

1. “The enviromental mining impact in the Mediterranean, first half of the 20th century” (provisionary title).

by Francesca Sanna (University of Paris Est Créteil, Lab’Urba)

Contact: francesca.sanna10@gmail.com

Abstract: Extractive industry has always faced the problem of a dependency in relation to resources, both in terms of location and availability. Its main resource, the mineral deposit, is non only geologically determined, but also non-renewable for nature, so that extraction is both the reason of existence and also the very end or death of mining activity. This paradoxical situation represents a real dilemma for extractive industry and the reason for which all firms have to build their strategy on the ineluctable non-renewable nature of minerals. This dilemma could lead to different responses: research and expansion, in order to take control of new deposits; verticalization, in order to develop new branches and to diversify; or extractivism, in order to exploit the mineral in the shortest and cheapest way and get the highest profits. The analysis of the firm behavior in relation to these options can provide a useful overview on the long term strategy of the firm and a better understanding of the leading tendencies in the sector. However, the firm has to face the same dilemma on the field and in the production management of extraction. On this level, the strategy is not necessarily extractivistic or path-dependent. In other words, the firm may not choose to treat all the resources it needs as they were all non-renewable like the mineral one. A management strategy can be flexible and composite, as a firm can display adaptative behaviors in relation to the natural and social territory or its economic space. This contribution proposes to study the resources’ management of the extractive firm with a case study about a great mining company in the first half of 20th century, the Société Minière et Métallurgique Peñarroya. With a micro-historical and connected approach this contribution provides a detailed analysis of field projects and management techniques in relation to the natural resources like wood or water, comparing mainly spanish and italian mining sites of the firm (and its subsidiaries). The aim is to show how and in what forms the firm displays both strategical and adaptative behavior in relation to, on the one side, the general tendancies of the market and, on the other, local conditions and resources, with a feedback effect on the production management and technical condition of mining labour.

2. “The sea, the forest, the village. Economic, social and environmental impact of mining in north Euboea, Greece (1860s-2000s)”.

by Leda Papastefanaki (University of Ioannina & IMS/FORTH)

Contact: lpapast@uoi.gr

Abstract : The paper presents new research on an important mining region, Euboea island in Greece, during the second half of 19th century and the 20th century. As mining activities from small and bigger enterprises of Greek and foreign capital began in north Euboea, the region transformed quickly. In this paper, I intend to examine spatial, economic, social and environmental changes from mining activities (mainly magnesite extraction and metallurgy) in the region. These changes include: land property, labour migration, employment and unemployment according to the mining activities cycle, destruction of the forest.
The sources used for the research include: The Municipal Archive of the small town Limni in Euboea, various economic and technical reports by experts, literature and narratives, British and French consular reports.

Session 3: Economic and Social Impacts of Mining. The case of Spain.

1. “Labour markets formation in Golden Age Spanish mining (1850-1920): evolution and specificities of the labour force”.

by Ángel Pascual Martínez Soto (University of Murcia, Spain), Lluís Torró Gil (University of Alicante, Spain), Miguel Á. Pérez de Perceval Verde (University of Murcia, Spain) and Ignacio Suay-Matallana (Miguel Hernández University of Elche, Spain)

Contact: apascual@um.es; lltorro@ua.es; perceval@um.es; isuay@umh.es

Abstract: The period from the 1850 to the 1920 is heralded as the Golden Age of mining in Spain. The boom in the extraction of some minerals (lead, iron, coal, copper, zinc, sulphur, manganese …) during these decades affected, in different time, to a number of geographical areas of its territory. Thanks to this growth, Spain was placed in the first world positions of the production of some of the mentioned minerals. Spanish mining sector had the challenge of attending the need of workers, as well as the availability of specialized workforce to the requirements of its close and distant contexts. For this, strategies for recruitment, control and remuneration were developed. One of the main problems in areas with strong manpower demand was the control of workers supply. The work organization had to adapt, at first, to the previous forms of articulation of the labour markets, inheriting social and organizational characteristics of that labour precedent, which was mainly agrarian. The exploitation of subsoil shared this workforce, making that many mining basins were characterized by the existence of a dual worker (miner as well as farmer), which lasted in a variable way depending on the area. Mining and traditional agriculture demand rivalled. This disrupted the existing labour market, and affected both the living conditions and the environmental situation of the different areas. The analysis of this process is extremely relevant, and offers relevant clues to understand some specificities about the labour configuration of the mining districts in Spain. It also makes possible to analyse different categories of employment percentages (especially regarding the percentages of minors, and female work force). Moreover, in late-19th century and early.20th Century, as happens in other countries, mining became one of the most conflictive sectors, which is related to all the previous issues. The aim of this paper is to show how the adaptation to the labour needs took place in the most important mining districts of Spain at this time. It intends to highlight the geographical and timeline differences existing in that process, as well as reflecting about their causes. Finally, the paper considers the variety of strategies used by employers, and how the fixation and proletarianization of labour was attempted or carried out.


2. “Migratory networks in the configuration of mining communities in Spain in the 19th century: Linares (1840-1890)”.

by Andrés Sánchez-Picón (Universidad de Almería), Víctor Luque de Haro (Universidad de Almería) and María del Carmen Pérez Artés

Contact: aspicon@ual.es; vld417@ual.es; mcperezartes@gmail.com

Abstract: The mining boom in Spain caused the appearance of important mining agglomerations. Investments, technology and labor were concentrated in these places. The role of migratory movements in the configuration of mining work was fundamental. Based on the use of documentation such as censuses or the civil registry, we analyze the functioning of the migratory networks that constituted these important mining agglomerations.
The paper has as a framework the use of the records linkage methodology, as a technique where great advances are being made in historical demography.
3. Adrian Palacios (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway): “Education and the Mining Industry in Spain in the late 19th century”. Contact: adrian.p.mateo@ntnu.no
Abstract: In this paper, we use highly detailed local mining data from the Mining Cadastre of 1890 to disentangle the effects of the mining industry on education in late 19th-century Spain. We analyse the literacy rates for females and males in the 9195 that formed Spain in 1887. We find that, for both males and females, that mining industry was hampering that basic accumulation of skills (reading and writing). To check these results, we use data from the mines opened during the late 1840s, and we also obtain a negative result, then reinforcing the ones obtained with the Mining Cadastre of 1890. Thus, and following the Natural Resource Curse literature, in the late 19th century the Spanish mining towns were involved in a negative long-term effect of extracting wealth, without an investment on education. Moreover, using spatial econometrics we have found that mines had a negative effect on the surrounding municipalities, highlighting the importance of this kind of analysis as mines were not only related with the municipality where they legally were. Additionally, the results for the role of Foreign Mining companies is interesting, as those municipalities with presence of these companies present a higher negative effect for females. This result engages with the long debate about the role of Foreign Capital on this strategic sector, and in our case, at least for female education, they were slowing down the increase on literacy rates. Although some authors have linked the mining industry with the Industrial Revolution in Europe or America, in Spain the mining sector, had a negative impact on education, a vital component in the economic development process. Hence, what were the long-term consequences of this effect? Have these regions, as the effect was spatially distributed, developed less because of the hampering impact on education? These are questions that require further investigation.

Session 4: Economic and Social Impacts of Mining. Case Studies from USA, Africa, Europe

1.  “Unravelling the resource curse: The impact of mining activities on local human welfare and within-country inequality, 1920s to 2000s”.

by Dácil Juif (Universidad Carlos III, Spain)

Contact: djuif@clio.uc3m.es

Abstract: One of the Sub-Saharan African countries most dependent on mining is Zambia (former Northern Rhodesia), where large-scale copper extraction started in the late 1920s. At its independence, in 1964, and for many years before, over 50 percent of total government revenue derived from mineral rents and copper accounted for 90 percent of its export value. The effects of extractive industries on people’s living standards have been an important matter of debate both in the academic and policy arena. A pessimistic traditional view on the local effects is that mines are often foreign owned enterprises that do not generate local employment, or forward- or backward linkages to the local economy (Hirschman 1958). Furthermore, the environmental degradation that sometimes accompanies mineral extraction and ore processing have endangered local peasants’ livelyhoods. Additionally, gender equality could suffer as jobs created by the mineral industry are generally reserved for men. On the other hand, a recent development literature has found positive rather than negative effects of mine openings on the reduction of local poverty and morbidity, and even on women’s empowerment (Aragon and Rud 2013, Kotsadam and Tolonen 2015, Chuhan-Pole et al. 2015). Departing from an assessment of the local effects of mine openings on human development, particularly on employment, schooling and health in Zambia, this study further engages with the impact of mining activities on within-country inequality. We then address how the regional inequality could have been reinforced or attenuated by migration and by fiscal policies. To construct the outcome measures of wellbeing, we draw on colonial and post-colonial censuses including district-level information. As for the measurement of mine activity, we have constructed a database including the years of mine openings, production, and mine employment since the late 1920s.

3.  “Contextualising social and ethnopolitical unrest in late socialist Kosovo against the life cycle of mining”.

by Pieter Troch (Ghent University, Belgium)

Contact: Pieter.Troch@Ugent.be

Abstract: The 1989 strike of the miners of Trepča/Trepça in northern Kosovo is one of the iconic and defining moments in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. The strike generated massive popular unrest in Kosovo, gave the Serbian Republic further pretext to intervene in Kosovo politics, and divided the Yugoslav federal leadership. The events are commonly interpreted through the dominant ethnopolitical lens, as an act of resistance (or, insubordination) by Albanian miners against the politics of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević to reduce Kosovo’s autonomy. For socialist Yugoslavia as a whole, however, recent research shows that economic crisis, social unrest, and ethnopolitical mobilisation went hand in hand. The first aim of this paper is to analyse along these lines the elements of social unrest behind the strike of 1989 through a detailed reconstruction of the social and economic conditions in the Trepča/Trepça mining enterprise during the second half of the 1980s. Second, the paper situates these development within the particular life cycle of mining activities, integrating the story of Yugoslav mining in the 1980s within the broader global history of reduction and closure of mining activities. The paper is based on a study of economic policy making related to mining in the Yugoslav economic reforms of the 1980s in combination with a thick description of social and economic conditions in the Trepča/Trepça mining enterprise, particularly through a study of the factory journal and the local archive (the archives of the enterprise are not accessible). The paper makes a number of contributions of relevance beyond the micro-historical case-study. First, it scrutinizes the intersection of social unrest and ethnopolitical mobilization through the conceptual lens of the particular temporalities of mining activities. Second, it analyses socialist, state-owned mining enterprises not as a static fossils stubbornly denying the life cycle of mining but as dynamic actors engaging with the temporal challenges of mining. The paper argues that the rupture of war and transition rather than the socialist planned economy led to the petrifaction of mining activities, to the current point at which the Serbian and Kosovo governments lay claim to the heritage of the largely defunct Trepča/Trepça mining complex as a guarantee for economic wellbeing.


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