Coexistence and conflict between artisanal mining, fishing, and farming in a Peruvian boomtown

Aaron Malone, Nicole M. Smith, Eliseo Zeballos Zeballos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A global boom since the early 2000s has spurred major mining projects as well as major social conflicts, with South America standing as a central example on both fronts. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has also boomed, but academic research on mine-community conflicts has seldom considered the ASM sector. This paper examines the dynamics of conflict and coexistence between mining and other rural livelihoods in a Peruvian ASM boomtown. We analyze ASM-livelihood dynamics through the lenses of water, land, economic tradeoffs, immigration, social and power dynamics, and history and previous conflict – all themes identified in the literature on conflicts around large-scale mining (LSM). In our study site, ASM activity did not physically displace communities or other livelihoods, as often occurs with large-scale mines. We found a baseline acceptance for ASM activity, based on perceptions of economic improvement and historic incorporation of informal mining within the local livelihood mix. However, this acceptance was fragile, threatened by the rapid pace of ASM growth, immigration and social change, and uncertainty about water contamination that could undermine other livelihoods. Weighing the contrasting realities and pressures in our study site, we conclude that ASM could coexist with other livelihoods, though it is far from certain whether this will play out in practice over the long run.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-154
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the interviewees and residents of Rio Grande district for their participation and hospitality. Thanks also to Paul Santi, Henry Polanco, and Josh Sharp for project support. The paper benefitted immensely from suggestions by the anonymous reviewers and editors. Funding was provided by the Center for Mining Sustainability, a joint venture between the Universidad Nacional de San Agust?n (Arequipa, Peru) and Colorado School of Mines (USA).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
  • Coexistence
  • Conflict
  • Livelihoods
  • Peru
  • Social license to operate


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