The Local Politics of Mining in Bolivia: The Distributive Outcomes of Firm Responses to Risk
Comparative studies of four privately-owned mines reveals stark variation in the interactions between company strategies to mitigate risk and community structures that, in turn, influence patterns of distribution of costs and benefits. For two of the mines, extractive firms attempted to form stable negotiating partners with community organizations. As a result, company efforts to reduce risk aligned with investments in public goods and local diversification, although which goods the companies invested in was shaped somewhat by the structure or the community organizations. For the other two mines, companies undertook negotiating strategies that exacerbated fractures in the communities, pitting local factions against one another. As a result, these firms found it in their interest to target benefits narrowly, supporting allies that could counter-mobilize against threats, instead of investing in public goods. Thus, interactions between firm strategies to reduce risk and social structures of nearby communities strongly shaped the distribution of costs and benefits of mining. To complement the case studies, I draw on an original survey of 2,200 households in and around the four mines to examine individual-level implications of the argument. Regression analyses of who supports the mining company and who receives benefits shows that mines that target allies do in fact have comparatively narrow bases of support, more uneven distributions of benefits, and fewer contributions to local development. The paper concludes by highlighting broader contributions to the research to theoretical and policy challenges to increasing the likelihood of problematic commodity industries contributing to sustained and inclusive development.