Publication Details

Lahiri-Dutt, K., Alexander, K. & Insouvanh, C. (2014). Informal mining in livelihood diversification: mineral dependence and rural communities in Lao PDR. South East Asia Research, 22 (1), 103-122.


In the context of mineral extraction in South East Asia, the rural poor are generally portrayed as victims of large, invading corporatized mining enterprises. However, this paper argues that local villagers have also shown considerable agency in taking advantage of the mineral resource boom by diversifying their livelihoods to include informal mining. In South East Asia, the growth of informal mining has occurred within the overall process of agrarian transition. This paper focuses on a mineral-rich valley in southern Laos to highlight the location-specific nature of such transitions. The valley's environmental transformation has both caused and accompanied a modification in the peasant ways of life, and the recent entry of transnational mining companies and the growing market price of tin have fundamentally altered the relationships of the peasants with place, while at the same time encouraging them to claim mineral resource rights in ways that are not accommodated in conventional mining legislation. To conclude, the paper notes the multiple interpretations and contradictions of the increasing mineral dependence among Lao peasants in a rapidly changing world.



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