PLANETARY MINE AND NEW SPACES OF EMPIRE

Martín Arboleda

This research project aims to supersede the methodological nationalism that is often concomitant to the study of extraction, and to rethink the production of natural resource frontiers in the context of global capital accumulation. Resource booms have been traditionally understood as the direct outcome of relations of unequal exchange between an imperial power and a dependent periphery, in the context of an Eurocentric capitalist system. However, processes of technological modernization and industrial upgrading taking place across the global South after the 1980s –especially in East Asian economies-, have decentered the geography of large-scale industry, destabilizing traditional categories of Empire, core/periphery, and even global North/global South. The planetary mine, this research argues, therefore emerges as the most genuine product of two distinct, yet overlapping epochal transformations: First, a new geography of late industrialization that is no longer circumscribed to the traditional heartland of capitalism (i.e. the West), and second, the microelectronics technological revolution of recent decades, whose socioecological implications we are only beginning to understand. Through a grounded study of new spaces of extraction in Chile and Latin America, this research project explores the shifting modalities of state power, technological infrastructures, and the production of nature, especially as their mediations weave together the complex metabolism of the global urban system.

Projected outcome: book publication 

Autonomous shoveling and haulage machinery in a mine in Chile. Credit: Codelco