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