Mining in Africa after the supercycle: New directions and geographies

Bowman, Andrew; Frederiksen, Tomas; Bryceson, Deborah; Childs, John; Gilberthorpe, Emma and Newman, Susan (2021). Mining in Africa after the supercycle: New directions and geographies. Area, 53(4) pp. 647–658.



Mining in Africa is at a pivotal moment. For most of the period 2000 to 2012, the extractive industries were in a ‘supercycle’ of sustained high commodity prices. Driven by resource-intensive growth in emerging market economies, prices were anticipated to continue for decades to come. However, this ‘supercycle’ ended in 2012 and there followed a severe slump in mineral prices from 2014 onwards. On the one hand, a new era of commodity market dynamics has begun, with changing patterns of economic activity, minerals governance, and environmental regulation. On the other hand, the end of the supercycle has continued or intensified pre-existing trends towards mechanisation, automation, and enclavity while distributive pressures on companies by local communities and host nations increases. We argue that the end of the supercycle has reconfigured the geographies of extraction in ways that are not yet reflected in existing research nor taken into consideration in policy implementation, particularly around corporate strategy, state- business relations and models for mineral-based development strategies. In this paper we map the terrain of research on the supercycle in Africa and identify emerging post-supercycle trends - some of which have overtaken research. The paper is structured around examining four themes: (1) new geographies of investment and extraction, (2) new geographies of struggle, (3) national minerals-based development and (4) labour and livelihoods, for which we identify key trends during the supercycle and post-supercycle and areas for future research and policy development.

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