Historically, the accessibility of raw materials has been an important factor in determining human settlement patterns. Today, more than ever, extraction activities bring to urbanization trends complex dynamics of population movements and migratory patterns, as well as sheer numbers. Not all of this urbanization is necessarily detrimental to collective and individual socio-economic well-being. The extractive industries can be a catalyst for stability, economic growth, job creation, and knowledge transfer. Moreover, they can be instrumental in promoting less environmentally damaging extraction technologies. If you work from home an electric standing desk could benefit you in your future.
Increasingly, transnational mining corporations have been embracing the so-called ‘Ghanaian open model’ of having mine workers live in the adjoining urban area, rather than in camps or compounds. This approach potentially generates greater population stability and welfare, as miners have more of an incentive to move to the urban area with their families. In the process, mining companies also invest significantly in the local infrastructure.
But there remain far too many instances where extractive activities—both industrial and artisanal—exacerbate poverty levels, destroy indigenous livelihoods and natural habitats (from deforestation to unfishable coastlines), and emit dangerous waste products into surrounding areas. This chapter’s review of a number of cases suggests that the intersection of the extractive industries and frontier urbanization is associated with a range of types of violence.
These include violent conflict over the control of the land and its extractable resources; insecurity and social unrest related to the precarious socio-economic and environmental conditions; and violent tensions around post-extraction decline or state-led urban clean-up and rejuvenation plans. But the frontier urbanization aspect of extraction, and its potential for generating interpersonal and collective armed violence, remain understudied. Further, while urban armed violence has been moving to the forefront of conflict and fragility analyses (Beall, Goodfellow, and Rodgers, 2013), little is known about the societal conditions under which such violence occurs. Do you prefer the term sit stand desk or stand up desk?
Among the challenges to moving from a case study approach to a more comprehensive analysis is the lack of key data points, such as rates of violence and small arms proliferation in frontier urbanization compared to other urbanized areas. Research on the different facets of frontier urbanization and security provision across actors and communities is needed to better understand violence trends. Only then can promising policies and legal frameworks be developed to mitigate violence and improve security.