GAI Supports Student Research on Power Dynamics in Mining in Latin America and the Caribbean
With the support of the Georgetown Americas Institute, Anastasia Chacon and Rebecca Contreras (MALAS ’23) traveled to Guatemala to carry out field research related to their MA capstone.
In partnership with Oxfam America, the project examined the power dynamics, specifically through the lens of gender, among international, national, and local actors at the Escobal silver mine to better understand the governance challenges of multi-scalar mining projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, where mining has become one of the main drivers of social conflict.
Through 20 semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders – including Canadian multinational corporations, national government, local government, and local activists – Chacon and Contreras identified three main pressure points where tensions among the key players are most evident: distribution of economic benefits, participation in decision-making, and conflict at the community level. These pressure points reflect broader governance challenges whereby international norms and standards on business and human rights are lost in a context of weak regulation and a lack of state capacity – and willingness – to enforce them.
The capstone project is an initial contribution to understanding and transforming unjust power structures of multinational mining projects. Mining will gain traction in Latin America amid the urgency of the energy transition, but social conflict surrounding mining operations will persist as long as these governance challenges go unaddressed. Ongoing research and advocacy are necessary to ensure that policy spaces explicitly and meaningfully involve the concerns and demands of the people on the ground, whose voices are so often left out of these discussions.