An in depth study of informalization processes in global gold production

This project (2018-2020) is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). As a promotor I work with postdoctoral researcher Boris Verbrugge, professor Alexandra Uran (Universidad de Medellin) and PhD student Maria Eugenia Robles Mengoa to study informalization processes in the global gold production system. Stay updated via the project website (here).

A growing body of research relies on ‘chain frameworks’ such as global commodity chains, -value chains, and -production networks, to make sense of trends in global production. It concludes that the global economy has witnessed a geographical expansion of production; a concentration of power in the hands of lead firms; and the rise of a flexible and irregular workforce. Despite its strengths, this research has important shortcomings, including a neglect of informal production, and of extractive industries such as mining. This project addresses both shortcomings, by investigating informalization processes in global gold production. More precisely, it analyzes two mechanisms that indicate a growing reliance on informal labour: (1) outsourcing by large mining companies to local subcontractors who operate at the margins of the formal economy; and (2) the massive expansion of low-tech, labour-intensive and predominantly informal artisanal and small-scale gold mining. We will first conduct a mapping of the global gold production system, to understand the global roots of informalization processes. We then conduct case studies of six mining areas in three countries (Philippines, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo) with a view to understanding how informalization processes intersect with changes in local labour markets, thus affecting who stands (not) to benefit from these informalization processes.

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