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Tracy-Lynn Field

Contention and ambiguity characterize the relationship between formal mining, development and sustainability. Mineral supply has developed into an integrated, global system of production to meet society’s increasing demands, but significant social and environmental impacts continue to be externalized. In the early 2000s, efforts were made to position mining on a sustainable development track. The sustainable mineral development consensus holds that the mining industry can transform its practices and catalyze development that leads to poverty alleviation. Critics insist, however, that extractivist and neoextractivist development models are doomed to failure. This chapter questions why the current system nevertheless remains entrenched. It points to Karl Polanyi’s concept of the ‘double movement’: the conflicting principles of promoting mining and protecting society from its worst impacts. While these principles organize societal actors more broadly, the tension between them manifests most acutely through the State. It is this tension that contributes to holding an unsustainable global system of mining production in place.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

There are a variety of discourses on mining, development, sustainability and the role of the State that have crystallized since the early 1970s. Discourses reflect how we understand the world, but also reconstitute that world, reproducing perceptions of persons, social relations, action and interaction and our grasp of the material world in a particular way. This chapter presents the emergence and key claims of four ‘pro-mining’ discourses: the sustainable mineral development consensus; responsible mining; neoextractivism; and critical and strategic minerals. Pro-mining discourses assume a robust, positive connection between progress, development, economic growth and the promotion of the mineral extractives industry. International financial institutions, the mining industry and States themselves have defined varying roles for the State to promote a developmental and sustainable mining industry. Pro-mining discourses acknowledge a protective role for the State, but tend to underplay mining’s social and environmental impacts.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

This is the second of two chapters outlining discourses on mining, development, sustainability and the role of the State. This chapter focuses on discourses of mining dissent: narratives on the State’s sustainability role that dissent with or refute central claims of pro-mining discourses, highlight the harms flowing from mining to a far greater extent or offer alternative conceptions of how mining can contribute to the wellbeing of people and planet. The discourses of dissent surveyed in this chapter are the resource curse thesis, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, environmental justice, human rights and feminist critiques of mining. Discourses of dissent place more emphasis on the State’s protective role compared to the State’s promotion of mining. But they differ in terms of who or what the State is called upon to protect, and how the State is expected to act. The chapter also shows how the mining industry and its supporters have engaged with dissenting arguments.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

The double movement also operates at the level of more detailed, technical prescriptions relating to property, taxation, environmental assessment and mine closure. This chapter on the State, mining and property shows how property institutions have played a critical role in disembedding the market for mineral exploration and exploitation and securing a stable supply of mineral raw materials. Property laws entrench two conceptual distinctions: a separation of rights to minerals from rights to land, and a distinction between rights to minerals as such from rights to extract them. The State is instituted as a centralized authority over both realms of rights: as national landlord over mineral rights, and as concessioning authority over the right to extract. Pivoting around these two major roles, the State undertakes a variety of functions - maintaining a mineral rights cadastre, archiving geological knowledge, ensuring the efficacy and primacy of mining, allocating mining rights and providing security of tenure. Taken together, these property institutions enable States to promote mining aggressively in private and State-led forms of extractivism.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

This chapter focuses on the dominant patterning of State roles giving effect to the double movement in the taxation of minerals and mining. Tax revenues are likely to be the core benefit of mineral extraction for host States. Fiscal regimes, it is claimed, can distort investment decisions all the way through the mine development and closure chain. The fiscal framework must secure enough of the mineral resource rent to enable the State to finance its development goals. But according to conventional wisdom, this framework must also be appropriate to attract private investment. Rather than a mechanism that merely protects society from the free market, taxation therefore sits at the crux of the State’s management of paradox under the double movement. States are also expected to incentivize appropriate environmental behaviour in the mining sector, curb tax avoidance and tax evasion, distribute wealth through fiscal decentralization and natural resource revenue sharing, and promote tax transparency. Notwithstanding initiatives in these areas, the bias of the double movement in the field of mineral and mining taxation is skewed towards promoting and supporting the market.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

This chapter extends the analysis of Polanyi’s double movement in the system of global mining production to the area of the State, mining and various forms of environmental assessment (EA): environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, health impact assessment and cumulative impact assessment. Over the past few decades a wide range of interested parties have participated in developing these instruments as a means to mediate mining’s most deleterious impacts on society. Through the various forms of EA, the State institutionalizes various forms of foresight that draw upon principles of prevention and precaution and rest upon scientific expertise. The State must use the knowledge gained to set boundaries, decide whether and how mining should proceed in its jurisdiction. A third element of the State’s protective role is to entrench democratic decisionmaking, or at least give the appearance of doing so. The real protection afforded by these processes, however, is frequently only paper thin.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

This chapter journeys to the end of the mining trajectory, examining the operation of the double movement in relation to the activities of closure, relinquishment and postclosure monitoring and management. Mine closure lacks the prestige associated with exploration, or the development and operation of a mine, but it has been described as ‘the most tangible indicator of sustainable development for the mining industry’. The idea of restoring mine sites to some level of socioecological functionality has been alive since the late nineteenth century. This chapter presents the dominant model for mine closure, which revolves around three State roles: a watchdog role during the long period of developing and operating the mine; a relinquishing role at the point of mine closure; and a ‘mender of last resort’ role for abandoned and orphaned mines. The chapter identifies a number of key contradictions, weaknesses, gaps and opacities that render the formal regulatory framework for mine closure ineffectual in many countries.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

The final chapter elaborates on the ‘great undoing’, a summary of the book’s insights on the double movement in mineral extraction; and the ‘great reimagining’, possible reimagined futures for mineral extraction and the governance systems that drive the production of mineral commodities. The latter situates postextractivism within the broader framing of transition discourses and explores the normative and technical implications of adopting a postextractivist frame with reference to the relationship between the human and nonhuman spheres, human relationships, economic growth and development, and the role of the State.

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Tracy-Lynn Field

States in mineral-rich jurisdictions must promote mining as a development industry just as they must protect people and environment from the worst excesses of extractivism. State Governance of Mining, Development and Sustainability explores how the State’s role in facilitating a developmental and sustainable mining industry has been defined. In doing so, this astute book considers the impact of the policies and laws of mineral-rich States themselves, multilateral international governance institutions, industry associations, and environmental justice advocates in the areas of property relations, mineral taxation, environmental management and mine closure.