University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > African Economic History Seminar > Ores for Development? Local Effects of Central African Copper Mining in Comparative Perspective (1910 to 2000)

Ores for Development? Local Effects of Central African Copper Mining in Comparative Perspective (1910 to 2000)

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Understanding the effects of mining activities on well-being is crucial, as many developing countries, particularly in Africa, specialize in mineral extraction, and this sector attracts most foreign direct investment. According to the ‘resource curse’ literature, natural resource rich countries tend to be worse off in terms of economic growth, institutional quality, education and even gender equality (Auty 1993, Sachs and Warner 1995, Gylfason 2001, Ross 2008, 2012). However, some recent local level studies in development economics find mostly positive correlations between mine openings on the one hand and education, formal employment, gender equality, poverty reduction and (infant) health on the other hand (e.g. Aragón and Rud 2013, Kotsadam and Tolonen 2016). We study the local effects of industrial mine activities on the well-being of the population in historical and in comparative perspective. Sub-national analyses are less common than cross-country comparisons, and they allow to disentangle the effects of mining from other fundamental factors which vary greatly between countries. Adding a historical perspective allows to shed light on the mechanisms at work in different historical contexts, for instance, during booms and busts of mineral prices. The main areas studied include the Copperbelt (Zambia) and Katanga (DRC), but the case of Chile’s mining regions will be discussed as well. All cases share common characteristics: they were largely agricultural and sparsely populated areas before the start of industrial mining activities; large foreign conglomerates in charge of extraction made considerable investments in infrastructure and attracted numerous workers. By assessing the wellbeing of miners and their families, as well as the effect of mine openings on local levels of education and occupational structure in cross-sectional and longitudinal comparative perspective, we hope to contribute to our understanding of the institutional characteristics that condition the socio-economic effects of mine activities.

This talk is part of the African Economic History Seminar series.

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