Mining cooperatives in Eastern DRC : the interplay between historical power relations and formal institutions
Institute of Development Policy and Management
The Extractive Industries and Society
, p. 823-831
University of Antwerp
Artisanal miners living in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are forced by the government to organize into cooperatives, in line with formalization policies. At first glance, cooperatives may appear to be their saviour: they can help them to become legally recognized, they can empower their position vis-àvis traders and the government, and they may increase their revenue share. Taking a power-laden relational approach to institutions and poverty, we argue that the opposite is happening. Based on a field study in South Kivu, we demonstrate how the interplay between historical power relations and formal institutions has transformed cooperatives into an instrument allowing economic, political and customary elites to continue exercising power and exploiting miners economically. As such, cooperatives seem to be an institution that legalizes exploitation. We further examine the mechanisms that facilitate, exacerbate and prolong this exploitation, and warn that as the production evolves towards small-scale mining, an associated capitalization may further perpetuate the relational poverty if the cooperatives are not governed differently.