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Transnational mining companies and local politics. A case study on large-scale gold mining in Argentina
In the context of the rapid expansion of large-scale mining in Latin America, Argentina has become a principal destination for foreign direct investment since the 1990s. Transnational mining companies extract metals in large-scale open-pit mines applying industrial extraction methods. In some mining areas, the adverse social and environmental consequences of these methods have led to a growing number of conflicts. Mining companies have developed a set of programmes with which they are trying to create social acceptance. Their programmes focus on social and infrastructural measures with which they reach into public domains associated exclusively with the state. Existing empirical research focuses on the emergence of conflicts between mining companies and local protest groups or considers the relationship as a form of corporate management. However, they do not explain the democratic and developmental impacts that can result from corporate activities in the mining regions.
This dissertation analyzes to what extent mining companies influence decision-making processes and local policies in mining regions. What strategies do mining companies pursue to gain social acceptance? What are the democratic and developmental impacts of their activities? To answer these questions, I developed an analytical framework that combines approaches from governance theory, critical geography, participation theory and CSR literature. I analyse the influence of mining companies using a collective case study whereby I study corporate influence in two communities adjacent to the industrial gold mines Veladero and Cerro Vanguardia in the Argentine Northwest and Southern Patagonia.
The results show that mining companies spatialize corporate interests by privatising public areas and establishing their own rights of use. They contribute to an informalisation of local decision-making processes by creating local participation opportunities for representatives of political institutions and other local organizations. Likewise, they assume quasi-governmental functions and, in this way, promote a process of privatisation that affects local policies. My work contributes to the debate on the expansion of mining in Latin America and provides insight into how mining companies gain legitimacy and what effects their strategies have on democracy and local development.