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Concept file

, Grenoble, April 2013


‘Extractivism’(lat.: ex-trahere = extraction) is a term which refers to the extraction of natural resources like minerals, oil and gas which are destined for international markets. It is part and parcel of the hegemony of development (GIARRACA, 2007; BÖHM and BREI, 2008). Extractivism is often leading to relations of dependency between providers and users of resources (MISOCZKY, 2011). The term is often associated with over-extraction. The main players in extractivism are international industry companies, the local government and the lobbyists in the developed countries.

“Eduardo GUDYNAS (2009) distinguishes three types of extractivism:

  • depredating extractivism, which is currently the dominant form, not including any social and environmental concerns;

  • cautious extractivism, which takes into account certain (always contested) social and environmental standards, but still serving as the economic basis of a country or region;

  • the third form, the indispensable extraction, is not a‚ model of extractivism, because it refers to a reduced extraction of resources. Its major aim is to extract as little as possible, to promote sustainable forms such as recycling, to close material and resource flows, to end pressure on ecosystems, to minimize emissions, etc.” (BRAND 2013, p. 3) This paper is focused on the most common type: the depredating extractivism.

Extractivism is not a new phenomenon, it exists since the time of colonialism and the term has a strong historic and symbolic importance. The impact of extractivism is mainly noticeable in Latin America but also in Africa and Asia since colonial times, when capitalism always has been dependent on extractive economic activities (GALENO 1997). Colonial extraction guaranteed the provision of the colonialists with raw material, cheap energy and food to help them to develop and to accumulate capital. Examples therefore are the silver mines of Potosi, the gold mines of South Africa or the coal mines in Australia. Colonialism was a structural instrument for the uneven appropriation and consumption of the world’s resources. The way of extraction during the colonial times had an immense social, economic and environmental impact. For instance, indigenous people have been used as slave labor that generated wealth in Europe. The wealth in Europe was causing the death of people in the colonized countries. Moreover extractivism also had an immense negative impact on the environment and thus on livelihoods of the local population.

But extractivism was not just a colonial phenomena, it is a late-breaking phenomena. The developed countries’ economy is based on growth, what means a constantly raising demand on natural resources. Additionally to those emerging countries like China, Brazil and India require a lot of raw material to develop. Therefore the most resource-rich countries in Latin America for instance have focused on the extraction of natural resources and their export. In 2010, for instance, the Foreign Direct Investments in the sector of natural resources where lying at 43% (ECLAC 2011). In new discourses the term “neo-extractivism” replaces the term of extractivism, referring to policies that strengthen the role of the State in the exploitation and ownership of resources ( GUDYNAS, 2010), a development that has gained momentum in large parts of the ‘developing world’. (BÖHM, 2012)

BRAND (2013) is calling extractivism more than an activity of resource extraction he is calling it a development model with socio-economical, natural and political influences (gender, class structures, relation between state and public, etc.) within the respective country, especially in resource-rich countries of the Global South. In the following it will be shown which impacts extractivism has.

What are the results for the respective country

  • a. Extractivism is seen as the major engine to force economic growth by international financial institutions. On the back of the financial crisis, financiers and investment bodies are looking for new areas for profitable investment, mainly forms of profit making, with natural resource extraction representing a site for rapid and substantial accumulation

  • b. MNCs and TNS are promising new jobs and development with extractivism. This is dependent on the politics in the affected countries. But in the most cases no wealth is trickling down to the poor people. In some cases poverty and inequality is rising caused by conflicts.

  • c. Extractivism is characterized by intertwined collusion between state and corporations, with major public finance investments, poor transparency in deals, and corruption. This collusion, linked to state intervention and poor regulatory frameworks, results in major tax losses and capital flight in countries affected by extractivism.

  • d. Often extractivism has no positive impact to the region where the raw materials are extracted.

  • e. The displacement of local people is caused by extractivism. Moreover land is grabbed for large mining projects, oil extraction, etc. Often the local population has no voice in decision making processes.

  • f. The extraction of raw-materials consumes enormous quantities of water and causes water pollution, which is often scarce in the regions where ectractivism takes place. A result is a degreasing ground water level and more water scarcity with its aftermath for the local population, what can lead to conflicts in between the community.

  • g. Extractivism destroys natural resources and whole eco-systems upon which the livelihoods and reproduction of peasant and indigenous populations depend.

  • h. Through extractivism a lot of greenhouse gases are emitted which will have a negative impact on the climate.

  • i. In the extractive and linked industries the workers earn low wages. Often they have to work under degrading circumstances. For instance they are exposed to toxic chemicals with their negative impact on health.

  • j. Women’s unpaid labour has been central to the accumulation strategy of mining and other extractives corporations for centuries. The migrant labour system maximises profits for mining capital by inhibiting family migration and locating responsibility for the social reproduction of the work force and the next generation of workers in the rural areas.

  • k. Through extractivism militarization is raising which causes repression of communities.

(Noalmina 2013)

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