1st Edition

Mining and Development in Sierra Leone Negotiating Change and Navigating Uncertainty

By Robert Jan Pijpers Copyright 2025
    248 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Mining and Development in Sierra Leone examines how different actors in Sierra Leone use the effects of large-scale mining to navigate and transform the challenging conditions of life.

    The book offers an in-depth analysis of the processes of development and change that mark resource extraction environments globally. Across the world, resource extraction is assigned an important role in development agendas. Yet a key question is how development opportunities are given shape and accessed, and how extraction’s negative impacts are dealt with in actual politics and practices. Set in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone during a global mining boom, this book shows how mining-cum-development’s multifaceted effects materialize. By taking the micro-politics of large-scale mining as its principle focus, the book analyzes a range of the most perplexing phenomena of life in Sierra Leone, and scrutinizes the intricate and contentious processes of change unfolding in mining environments. Mining and Development in Sierra Leone goes beyond promise-or-problem dichotomies, offers key insights into the struggle for progress that characterizes the mining-development nexus and provides innovative understandings of the resourceful ways in which different actors negotiate change and navigate uncertainty.

    This book will be of interest to students and scholars working on resource extraction, large-scale investments, globalization, and development, as well as to development practitioners, mining professionals and policymakers.

    1. Introduction: Mining, Development and Uncertainty


    2. Sierra Leone’s Turbulent History


    3. Hot-spot Marampa


    4. Mining, Hope, and Expectations


    5. Mining and the Politics of Time


    6. Mining, Belonging, and Localness


    7. Mining and Landed Relations in Sierra Leone


    8. Ambiguous Networks in Sierra Leone


    9. Conclusion: Negotiating Change and Navigating Uncertainty


     Robert Jan Pijpers is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Hamburg, Germany. He is co-editor of The Anthropology of Resource Extraction (Routledge, 2022).

    ‘This is a monograph about mining in Sierra Leone, but it is much more, and above all, it shows the power of theoretically informed, deep ethnography. Pijpers explores layers of history, from early colonization to the post-civil war era, political complexity past and present, gender relations and kinship, trust and its opposite, multilayered change and stubborn continuity. As a result, this book, on the face of it a study of resource extraction in West Africa, deserves a wide readership of scholars and students concerned to understand contemporary globalization, which is always localized. Often in places like Marampa, where uncertainty has to be navigated every day.’

    Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo, Norway

    ‘Based on excellent scholarship, Robert Pijpers demonstrates how a focus on the micro-politics of extraction within the context of Sierra Leone can facilitate understanding of wider global processes related to the promises and pitfalls of extraction. Through the use of ethnography, a nuanced understanding emerges of how different interests, power relations and political strategies are tied to extractive resources, shaping peoples’ senses of belonging, hopes and expectations for better futures. A valuable contribution to the study of contemporary Africa, which I highly recommend.’

    Eleanor Fisher, Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden

    ‘Pijpers’ immersive ethnography captures the everyday struggles, tensions, aspirations, ambitions and disappointments of those living in the orbit of Sierra Leone’s iron belt, waiting for the revenues of the current millennial scramble for Africa’s resources to trickle down. Pijpers vividly chronicles both the febrile energy and the precarity of life on the margins of mines. The sense of expectation that the boom has given rise to is over-shadowed by the elegiac portrait of bust precipitated with London Mining’s bankruptcy on a distant continent with which Pijpers opens – dramatic irony to the (unfulfilled) expectation that unfold as the book progresses, and sobering reminder of the uneven and unpredictable boons of mining booms. Pijpers’ ethnography upends the temporal logics of boom and bust that have for so long underwritten chronicles of extraction worldwide, juxtaposing the immediacy of daily struggles in the shadow of extraction, with the future hopes that mining investment stoke yet never deliver.’

    Dinah Rajak, University of Sussex, UK

    ‘Pijper's book on mining in Sierra Leone is really a book about so much else than mining: about economy, politics, law, but above all about human relations. In an exemplary way, it combines deep thematic expertise with a rich, finely tuned ethnography. The book should appeal to scholars from within many academic disciplines, but also to policy practitioners.’

    Mats Utas, Uppsala University, Sweden