“Mineral Extraction in a Plurinational State: Commodification and Resource Governance in the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia”

Sanchez Lopez, Maria (2017) “Mineral Extraction in a Plurinational State: Commodification and Resource Governance in the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia”. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

The Uyuni salt flat (Salar de Uyuni) is located in the Bolivian high Andean plateau, is considered to be the largest salt flat on earth and a natural wonder. Concentrated in its brines, is the largest lithium deposit in the world, along with important reserves of potassium, magnesium and ulexite, collectively known as ‘evaporite resources’. Over the past 40 years, this landscape has been commodified and radically transformed in a continuous process of mining capitalist expansion. What is unfolding in the case of the Uyuni salt flat, however, is not just an economicallydriven process of capitalist expansion, but also a transformation of the landscape linked to the value and symbolic meanings attached to the salt flat in an ongoing process of the neoliberalisation of nature.
This thesis seeks to examine how social relations in terms of the material, discursive and cultural dynamics of evaporite mining shape and are shaped by governance frameworks. Based on a qualitative exploration, the research has three main objectives: i) to examine how and under what conditions the Uyuni salt flat has been commodified over the past 40 years (both under a neoliberal and post-neoliberal regime); ii) to analyse how lithium has exacerbated the territorial disputes and resource conflicts at local, departmental and national levels; and iii) to evaluate how and why territory and territoriality emerge as key elements within the process of commodification.
These elements illustrate that commodification is not only a profit-driven process of mining capitalist expansion; but also, and most importantly, an intrinsically political process in terms of the definition of territorial spaces, governance frameworks and the social struggles that emerge as a result. By highlighting the multiple dimensions embedded in transforming and commodifying nature, I present the case of the Uyuni salt flat as a hybrid landscape within which its peculiar social and natural features are essential to understanding the different frameworks of resource governance that have emerged over time.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of International Development
Depositing User: Gillian Aldus
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2018 11:19
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2018 12:23
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/66574
DOI:

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