Conflicts around large-scale mining are common and widely researched, but artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) features sparingly in the mining conflict literature, despite the prevalence of ASM conflicts. This paper examines ASM conflicts, focusing on a central case study from Arequipa, Peru, where violence between rival ASM groups and a mining company resulted in 15 deaths between 2020 and 2022. We leverage this extraordinary case to illuminate underlying issues. The central research question is: what structural factors around ASM in Peru set the stage for disputes, conflicts, and violence? We focus on three factors, concluding that (1) ASM's near-exclusion from owning mining concessions leads to informal arrangements and/or unauthorized access that catalyse many conflicts; (2) formalization models for ASM have done little to resolve access disputes, instead muddying the waters; and (3) multifaceted state weakness in relation to ASM contributes to perpetuation of might-makes-right dynamics. The research focuses on a single conflict from southern Peru, but the insights derived hold relevance throughout Peru and in other countries with significant ASM sectors and associated conflicts.
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- Artisanal and small-scale mining
- Mining concession
- State weakness