The extractive industry

Drilling into the New Zealand petroleum industry’s ‘Predatory Delay’ campaign

Terrence M Loomis


‘The hole in the ground that cannot be moved’: Political risk, race & mining finance

Paul Robert Gilbert and Maria Dyveke Styve

University of Sussex / Universitetet i Bergen

Confronting the convention: The planetary mine and extractive power

Devin Holterman and Christopher Alton

York University / University of Toronto

Comments 6

  1. In Paul and Maria’s presentation, it occurs to me that the technical process of political risk ranking by extractives has at least two target audiences. One is the state, where corporations or jv’s are aiming to create leverage for negotiating benefits, supports, favourable treatment in competition with other states (and corporations). The other audience are publics and investors with the intent of managing expectations, attracting support and capital through a kind of patina of engineering expertise that communicates essentially “trust us, we know what we’re doing”.

    In Devin and Christopher’s presentation, which resonated a lot with my own work (Loomis) I wondered if their research included investigation of interlocking directorates across companies and linkages with ‘expert’ consultants and academics who benefit from their ‘objective’ support for extractive industries? I suspect they included this aspect and it promises to shed more light on the exercise of corporate power in defending these industries in light of their harmful externalities as well as the increasingly urgent need to ‘manage’ the pace and direction of climate policies.

  2. A belated note from the putative ‘chair’ of this session (apologies to the presenters for not having this up earlier in the day). I very much enjoyed the three presentations – all very different – that make up this set/ panel. They coalesce around questions of corporate power and influence in extraction, looking at the mechanisms and technologies that facilitate the ongoing impact of the sector. Terry’s systematic treatment of the ways in which the petroleum sector within New Zealand is engaged in forms of predatory delay campaigns is compelling. The broad set of stakeholders who are engaged in ensuring the sector ‘keeps a seat at the policy table’ in the post-COVID environment is neatly laid out, and clearly a powerful set of interests. As Terry suggests, the moment is right to shift the discussion and direction of the country in relation to an industry that is seen, and believes itself, as increasingly marginal to economic, social and political futures.
    The conversation between Robert and Maria is an engaging and insightful peek ‘under the bonnet’ into the murky world of finance and risk where an ‘asset logic’ seeks to lock in ‘potential monetary values’ in ways which erase geography, politics and history from the equation. The underlying racial and racist logic that pervades so much of this Political Risk assessment field (I have been roped in to several of these and can verify their critique) is deeply troubling and revealing. They were after ‘comments that disagree’ with their argument: it is hard to argue with their call for greater engagement and understanding of these ‘technologies’ at the intersection of studies of extraction and critical studies of race!
    And in the same vein (to link to the conference title!) Devin and Christopher from Beyond Extraction provide a detailed account and analysis of PDAC 2020, the world’s largest mining investment Conference/ gathering. A wonderfully rich collaborative research project in and around and of the Conference is detailed, that offers further insights into the complex and intricate ways in which mining capital is conjured into existence and deployed to the furthest reaches of the globe (as well as close to ‘home’). I’m pleased they picked up on an author of one of my favourite pieces in the area – Anna Tsing’s ‘Inside the Economy of Appearances’ and the notion of ‘fictitious capital’. This is an area where the scripting of the ‘fiction’ (of rewards, resources and risk) is so critical, and yet the likelihood of success – like so much of the history of mining – so limited. As an aside, i think there is also scope for more work on the ‘failures’ – the social effects and consequences of leases that are hyped globally and locally, and yet turn out to have nothing there (Ferguson’s ‘Anti-politics machine’ springs to mind).
    So thanks again to all three presenters for an excellent set of presentations that complement each other very well in fleshing out the ways in which mining capital operates across economy, politics and policy.

  3. Hi everyone, I am really excited to participate in this group of presentations through our work with the Beyond Extraction research collective. I found both of the other presentations very interesting and certainly complementary to our work in different ways.

    Terence: I see/hear a lot of parallels between your description of the predatory delay campaigns in New Zealand with those here in Canada. Your presentation has me wondering if you have come across any indications of the same type of aggressive digital campaigns put forth by industry associations that generate broad datasets (seemingly irrelevant data and/or nondescript at the time of generation from online users), as a means to “micro-target” specific aspects of the population that may prove to be supportive of fossil fuels? The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has been shown to do this in the most recent federal election (This article provides a good overview: These tactics are similar to those used by the Trump and Brexit campaigns in the US and UK. Similarly, there has been many efforts from these major industry players, either directly from corporations and/or through lobbying associations, that fund, support, and amplify so-called “grassroots” public support for fossil fuels. Have you seen this as well?

    In response to your question regarding consultants and academics: there are certainly a few that were identified through the course of our first iteration of the event ethnography. On the consultancy side of things, I am personally quite interested in the industry that is popping up around the standardization or “mainstreaming” of biodiversity within the extractive industries. A range of consultants and NGOs are working with mining companies to help mitigate risk, meet project standards and assessments, and score higher rankings in ESG, while generating revenue and programming support from the extractive sector. We are also interested in looking closer at the involvement of the mining sector in the Canadian education sector more broadly, especially the propaganda projects targeting grade school students, which the mining sector has been quite active at here creating tools and camps that teach the benefits of mining (of course, while conveniently leaving out the negatives). I would assume this is similar in your research, however perhaps the fossil fuel industry hasn’t quite had the success that the mining sector has?

    Paul and Maria: I also really enjoyed your presentation – thank you. I think you correctly call for a deeper engagement with the racial dynamics of capital accumulation within the mining and finance industries, and one can deduce, capitalism more broadly. I agree that this should be a more central focus in much research on extraction. In connecting your discussions about observing mining conventions and conferences with my own experiences doing so it reminds me that these really are powerful spaces to study as a way to grasp the details of how the extractive sector functions. When visiting these spaces there is a deep sense that you are simply “among friends” and the insights for critical research and political organizing that can be generated from observing these “friendly” relations seems all the more critical. Methodologically this can be quite a challenge at times. In my dissertation research I tend to lean into notions of what others term “tactical withholding” and “researcher proximity” as a kind of negotiation between when I am perhaps getting too close and/or not close enough to oppositional actors, or more simply put, those we don’t agree with. It would be interesting to get your thoughts on this and how you negotiate those spaces. Thanks again.

    1. Devin: The New Zealand petroleum industry hasn’t invested or apparently used data mining to any great extent to target it’s messages. They have borrowed from various trade associations’ campaigns overseas for some of their messaging, e.g. Australia and the US. PEPANZ has however contracted for an annual survey of public opinions about energy and the oil and gas industry to help craft their messages, mostly around how essential (irreplaceable) they are in everyday life and to industry while espousing ‘just transition’ in a politically correct way. Hence my reference to predatory delay.

      I was also wondering if you guys had not only come across the particular role of ‘independent’ expert consultant in legitimising extractive public rhetoric, but whether you had investigated interlocking corporate directorates/boards and who’s coopted onto boards as a way of understanding how these corportations collaborate and exert influence.

  4. Dear all,

    I am Roy Cobby, PhD candidate at King’s College London, taking part in Knowledge production and data extraction stream Panel 2: Technology and infrastructure. Here’re some comments on all the presentations. Very interesting!

    I must thank Terrence on his careful analysis of the strategies employed by the oil industry to delay action against climate change. As a student of digital regulation, I am surprised by Silicon Valley’s uncontested ability to define policy action in the sector, even after growing concerns around privacy and political manipulation.

    To Paul, Maria, Devin and Christopher; I was very interested in the importance of “risk management” in today’s financialised extractivism. I am currently looking at the ability for future innovations, like Internet of Things, to facilitate this process for international investors. For example, farmers invested by foreign financial bodies are regularly contacted by agents to ensure results; in the near future, sensoring
    will be deployed across value chain. Have you seen any of this in mining?

  5. Hi! Thanks for your very interesting presentations. I was wondering if you could comment more on racial imageries underlying mining investments decisions. Even when “whiteness” is summoned for investors attention, companies still invest in places that are considered high-risk (e. g. in afro-descendent territories in Colombia, peasant communities in Peru). So how companies circumnavigate this racial narratives to invest in these, perhaps, non attractive places?

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