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Environment and History

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Environment and History

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

Elizabeth Dore

Environment and History 6(2000): 1-29

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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