Large-scale resource extraction is heavily reliant on uninterrupted energy supply. In countries with insufficient supply, mining companies often receive preferential access to energy and therefore leave a double footprint in their “host” countries. Who bears the costs of their access to energy?
My paper examines this question using the example of Zambia, a country whose formal economy has been shaped by copper extraction for 120 years. Currently, privately-owned, international copper mines consume more than half of the country’s electrical energy. By contrast, only 22% of private households are connected to the national grid. The mines keep unlimited access to electricity despite structural undersupply, while residents have to deal with daily blackouts or lack of access to power. I analyse energy distribution and blackouts in Zambia, particularly in two mining towns, and show how electrical infrastructure entrenches existing inequalities and produce new ones among residents. Electrical infrastructure can be an everyday source of emancipation and hope, but more often, it offers proof of one’s marginalisation.
Extending the frame, I link these local dynamics to the imbalances of global production networks. I critically examine the bargaining power of multinational companies in the instance of the threat of higher electricity rates. Based on this example, I argue that energy needs to be understood as part of a transnational assemblage of infrastructures including finance, trade, extraction and production, reconfiguring sociality at the global, national and local level. (Speaker’s abstract)
Source: MPI, Link (9 April 2018).