2023 State of the ASM Sector report Explore Delve's new report on ASM's contribution to Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality

Natures of concern: The criminalization of artisanal and small-scale mining in Colombia and Peru

Law enforcement against illegal mining and the formalization of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) share similar challenges, yet research has examined both as separate policy arenas. Overcoming this limitation, I trace ASM criminalization to uncover how this division is drawn. I unpack this process as a frontier moment in resource regime change, relating transformations in ASM governance to the fragile hegemony of large-scale mining (LSM) in Andean states. Drawing from Gramscian and Foucauldian approaches to political ecology, I introduce natures of concern to analyse how environmental degradation hierarchies are created to stabilize crisis episodes. I stress the pace, timing, and legitimacy dimensions to introduce resource regime changes. Colombia and Peru exemplify how elite perceptions of LSM's fragile hegemony underpin the jurisdictional pathways to criminalize ASM. In the first case via an elite boomerang: scale-jumping to circumvent a congressional vote as an urgent matter. In the second, preemptive elite practice: the scalar reconfiguration of national government's attributions preceded by early regulatory transformations. ASM heterotopic imagination subsumes the sector under a hierarchy of environmental damage, leading to improvement projects that reposition LSM as a preferable extraction developer, environmental steward, and territorial authority. Data comes from a year of fieldwork in Colombia and Peru, including 72 interviews with elite and non-elite actors and the documentary analysis of congressional journals, court proceedings, legislation, media, amongst other sources.

Additional Info

G Vila Benites
Publication Year
Associated Partners
Clark University
Publishing Institution Webpage
Data Source Classification
Academic Study
Research Type
Research Methodology
Thematic Tags
Political, Formalization, Governance, Large-scale Mining
Latin America
Last Updated
February 3, 2024