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Environment and Society: Long-Term Trends in Latin American Mining

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Drawing on historical and environmental research, this essay examines long-term trends in the ways that mining affected labour and the environment in Latin America. The article begins with a theoretical framework for analysing the changing conditions of labour and of the environment under capitalism. This is followed by a periodisation of Latin American mining, divided into six parts: pre-conquest, conquest, colony, neo-colony, capitalist modernisation and debt crisis. In each period (excepting the first) I assess the major social and environmental transformations associated with the industry. My central conclusion is that there has been an inverse relationship between two long-term trends: first, the brutality of labour conditions in the industry; second, the scope of environmental destruction linked to mining. The article concludes with a discussion of two more speculative issues: the impact this inverse relationship has had on contemporary political concerns, and whether the turn of the millennium marks the end of this inverse relationship.

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Keywords: Latin America; capitalism; labour; marxist analysis; mining

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2000

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 0.800. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.918.
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