Mining and farming frontiers
Although homestead farming was the primary goal of most western settlers in the latter half of the nineteenth century, a small minority sought to make their fortunes quickly through other means. In addition, ranchers capitalized on newly available railroad lines to move longhorn steers that populated southern and western Texas. This meat was highly sought after in eastern markets, and the demand created not only wealthy ranchers but an era of cowboys and cattle drives that in many ways defines how we think of the West today. Although neither miners nor ranchers intended to remain permanently in the West, many individuals from both groups ultimately stayed and settled there, sometimes due to the success of their gamble, and other times due to their abject failure. The allure of gold has long sent people on wild chases; in the American West, the possibility of quick riches was no different.
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- Mining the high frontier
- Making Space on the Western Frontier
- Proximity, Responsibility and Temporality at Resource Frontiers
- Pioneers, emerging land-use frontiers and economies of anticipation in northern Mozambique
- 17. The West
- Colombia a 'new frontier' for gold miners
- Western frontier life in America
- Beyond Brothels: Farms And Fisheries Are Frontier Of Human Trafficking
- 10 things you need to know about the massive new oilsands mine that just got a green light
- How the rise of electric cars endangers the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines
Mining the high frontier
Raymond E. Athens: Ohio University Press, Reviewed by Andrew F. The later nineteenth century witnessed the most extensive and famous series of gold migrations in modern history. Each of the gold discoveries caused large migrations of prospectors, skilled laborers, engineers, land speculators, share pushers and con artists who moved from one find to the next, bringing with them various skills but all with one goal, profit.
In this excellent account focused on the Wassa area of the southwestern Gold Coast, Raymond Dumett, who has published extensively on the colonial period and on gold mining, explores the first modern mechanized gold rush in West Africa and its aftermath. He discusses land, labor, capital, technology, transport, management, culture clash, and colonial rule.
Drawing on abundant archives and some oral interviews, Dumett's book examines in particular the relationship between mining and colonialism as well as the continuity of traditional African mining and the beginnings of European capitalistic gold mining. He examines various historiographical questions and provides considerable new information on the topics of mining, labor relations, capitalism, and colonialism in southwestern Ghana. The high quality photographs at the end of each chapter depicting both indigenous and expatriate gold mining are a valuable addition to the book.
Gold mining and trading predated the arrival of Europeans. The Akan region was one of West Africa's major gold sources, along with Bambuhu on the upper Senegal and Bure on the upper Niger, for the trans-Saharan trade.
West African gold made its way to medieval and Renaissance Europe. Gold initially attracted Europeans to the area, beginning with the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, who were followed by the Dutch, the British and several other West European powers, all seeking an El Dorado on the Guinea coast. While the El Dorado of European myth never fully materialized, the gold trade flourished before and during the trans-Atlantic slave trade which it outlasted as well.
The imposing forts and castles along the coast were built for participation in the gold, rather than trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Akan societies that engaged in the Atlantic trade also produced gold for their own use and exchange with other African groups.
The Akan were expert gold miners and artisans as well as careful protectors of the deposit sources from outsiders. Traditional methods of gold mining had been developed over the centuries and they persisted well after the arrival and encroachment of Europeans into the gold fields. After a scientific and highly detailed account of the geological structures and the location of gold in Ghana, Dumett turns to a discussion of traditional gold mining in the Southwestern Akan region.
In addition to providing insight into the difficult and arduous processes of excavation, crushing, and washing, the author argues against some commonly held assumptions about gold mining in precolonial West Africa and especially in the Gold Coast region. Local miners were not inefficient and backward but demonstrated remarkable innovation and adaptability in terms of tools and techniques in both shallow-pit mining, the most common type, and deep-level reef mining. Dumett also posits that traditional gold mining occurred primarily within the family group, with husbands, wives and other household members forming the basic work unit and that, contrary to the findings of Emmnual Terray for the centralized states such as Asante and Gyaman, slaves were not the primary laborers in Wassa.
Some slaves worked in the mines but the majority of mined gold was the work of free individuals and family groups. Thus, he argues against a slave mode of production in favor of several types of labor organization, including kin-based relations of production. The author declares that the Dumett-Terray debate over the dominant mode of production is unresolvable because there was in reality no single dominant mode and no unified set of labor relations in mineral production on the Gold Coast.
Dumett also discusses the critical roles of women and concludes that it is highly likely more women than men participated in mining operations in any given year. Strict gender division of labor did not exist on the mines. Finally, the author concludes that, despite the observations of some contemporary Europeans, mining made economic sense to local inhabitants. During the dry season when they would be generally idle, farmers mined for gold, expecting and sometimes achieving a lucky strike.
The potential benefits outweighed the costs. Akan farmer-miners continued to mine in traditional fashion and seasonally well after the introduction of full-time mechanized European mining. Dumett then turns to the first gold rush in Wassa in southwestern Gold Coast that lasted from approximately to The initial group of prospectors were West Africans from other mining areas, followed later by Europeans who brought in modern mechanized mining. Yet Akan farmer-miners were not displaced by new mechanized companies but competed alongside them on an equal basis.
Traditional methods and relations of production persisted and operated simultaneously with European methods and advances. While discussing some of the leading European figures, Dumett also cites the vision and leadership of several pioneering African entrepeneurs. These men were not merely collaborators assisting encroaching European capitalism and imperialism but creators of an indigenous capitalist class for future economic development and self-government.
They benefitted from the colonial presence and yet were also its harshest critics. They pursued their own agendas and interests. Once the initial gold rush was transformed into long-term mining, the mining companies had to set about the business of making a profit from the prospecting.
Dumett considers the complicated set of obstacles that companies had to overcome. Insufficient capitalization, inexperienced company directors, enormous technological difficulties at every step of the process, inadequate transportation facilities, and the poor health and high mortality of workers were all barriers to vast riches. Dumett discusses at length the recruitment and treatment of African labor in the s and s. Owing to the problems of recruiting local labor, European company officials concluded that local Akan either could not or would not work at the Wassa mines.
The author demonstrates conclusively that the Akan had various reasons for their reluctance to work in the mines for the companies. Mining and porterage were considered dangerous, arduous and not worht the wages paid.
The Akan preferred to remain in agriculture and work seasonally in the mines using traditional methods. In order to meet labor demands, companies recruited women as porters and carriers, and also brought in men from Liberia to work underground and in other unskilled positions. Almost seventy percent of the work force during this period was made up of Kru and Bassa men from Liberia. Dumett next turns his attention to the colonial government and its interactions with both European mining companies and African workers.
The colonial government remained aloof and rather disinterested in the needs both of the companies and their laborers, pursuing a policy of neglect over action and intervention. For example, the Colonial Office never investigated miners' complaints about living conditions and never suggested administrative procedures that would benefit either Africans or Europeans.
This indifference was most notable in the area of transportation with the government ignoring the companies' pleas for a railroad linking Wassa to the coast. Other examples of neglect include the Colonial Office's refusal to extend ordinances to the interior, severe limits on funds for infrastructural improvements, and the refusal to fund a geological survey or to validate leasing arrangements.
Dumett discusses especially well the conditions for miners on the frontier. There were in effect two simultaneously expanding mining frontiers, a traditional Akan farmer-miner gold-mining frontier, and an expatriate-controlled capitalistic mining frontier.
The sudden influx of people into new mining centers caused numerous problems in the area, as it did in other frontier gold rush regions around the globe.
One of the aggravating factors in Wassa was the presence of so many outsiders, some from traditionally hostile ethnic groups. Shantytowns sprung up with no regulation.
Violence was commonplace as were substandard housing and sanitation. Abundant alcohol and firearms added to the volatile mix of destabilizing factors. An absent colonial government only contributed to the instability. Yet Dumett argues that, under the circumstances, it is revealing that there wasn't more violence and chaos.
African resilience and initiative won out over colonial indifference and neglect. Despite the odds, three mining companies, including the Tarkwa and Aboso, the Gie Appanto, and the Wassa Gold Coast Mining Companies, extracted substantial gold for export and posted profits, although not as high as predicted. Dumett examines in depth these three ventures which at their peak in employed a total of 1, workers.
Even with the beginnings of mechanization, the Akan farmer-miners remained the backbone of the industry, and these three companies competently mobilized and handled African labor which contributed to their success.
A fundamental issue concerns the economic benefits and costs of gold mining in the region. Dumett rejects the notion that the companies exploited the region for all it was worth and that they consciously tried to create an African proletariat. The mining companies most likely pumped more money into the area than they ever took out in direct profits. He points to several positive developments, mainly in the areas of infrastructure and skills transfer, that benefitted local people in the long term.
Dumett also concludes that the exportation of gold from traditional African production far surpassed exports from the European sector until and held firm the next four years. Mechanized production did not destroy traditional methods of mining.
Right around the turn of the twentieth century, vast and important changes occurred in mining in the Gold Coast, and the author notes that he will publish on that period in the future. Like this work, that study will no doubt make a valuable and most welcome contribution to the literature on mining, labor, colonialism and African history in general. Copyright c by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and the list.
For other permission, please contact hbooks mail. Citation: Andrew F. Review of Dumett, Raymond E. H-Africa, H-Net Reviews. August, For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks mail.
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Making Space on the Western Frontier
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Proximity, Responsibility and Temporality at Resource Frontiers
The Last Frontier In the frontier line generally followed the western limits of the states bordering the Mississippi River, bulging outward to include the eastern sections of Kansas and Nebraska. Beyond this thin edge of pioneer farms lay the prairie and sagebrush lands that stretched to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Then, for nearly 1, kilometers, loomed the huge bulk of mountain ranges, many rich in silver, gold and other metals. On the far side, plains and deserts stretched to the wooded coastal ranges and the Pacific Ocean. Apart from the settled districts in California and scattered outposts, the vast inland region was populated by Native Americans: among them the Great Plains tribes -- Sioux and Blackfoot, Pawnee and Cheyenne -- and the Indian cultures of the Southwest, including Apache, Navajo and Hopi. A mere quarter-century later, virtually all this country had been carved into states and territories. Miners had ranged over the whole of the mountain country, tunneling into the earth, establishing little communities in Nevada, Montana and Colorado. Cattle ranchers, taking advantage of the enormous grasslands, had laid claim to the huge expanse stretching from Texas to the upper Missouri River. Sheep herders had found their way to the valleys and mountain slopes. Farmers sank their plows into the plains and valleys and closed the gap between the East and West.
Pioneers, emerging land-use frontiers and economies of anticipation in northern Mozambique
The goals set by the European Green Deal will require large amounts of raw materials, including copper. A substantial increase in the use of electric vehicles, smart grids and renewable energy systems will entail a commensurate increase in demand for raw materials. Recycling, in addition to primary mining, will be an essential element in sustainably meeting this increased demand. Recycling rates can still be improved, thus helping to close the loop and ensure a sustainable and fair balance of primary and secondary raw materials.
17. The West
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Colombia a 'new frontier' for gold miners
Thai and Burmese fishing boat workers sit inside a cell at the compound of a fishing company in Benjina, Indonesia on Nov. The imprisoned men were considered slaves who might run away. When the U. State Department released its annual human trafficking report on Monday, it told distressingly familiar tales of forced sex work and housekeepers kept against their will. But this year, one area got special attention: Slavery in the global supply chains of agriculture, fishing and aquaculture. The report has ranked the anti-trafficking efforts of most nations around the world since , sorting them into three tiers of compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Western frontier life in America
In the Bureau of the Census announced that the frontier was closed, that is, there was no longer any discernible demarcation between frontier and settlement. Up to and including the country had a frontier of settlement, but at present the unsettled area has been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line. In the discussion of its extent, its westward movement etc. Westward expansion was now complete.
Beyond Brothels: Farms And Fisheries Are Frontier Of Human Trafficking
Nearly a decade after the government launched a U. Seemingly overnight, its nearly dormant gold-mining industry has stirred to life, and the country has become a mecca for junior miners searching for the next big find. Foreign explorers have forged ahead even though environmental concerns could trip up their projects, most of which have not advanced beyond basic planning. Sustaining their interest is the promise of a rich payday when production begins or a mining major steps up with a lucrative buyout offer. Colombia, which sits atop the mineral-rich Andean range, produced about 80 million ounces of gold between the early s and the late s. But in recent years, production slowed.
10 things you need to know about the massive new oilsands mine that just got a green light
Boom and bust on the mining frontier. The pattern was the same almost everywhere. With the discovery of gold or silver, prospectors rushed into an area to stake their claims, and small mining camps turned into boomtowns overnight, complete with dance halls, saloons, prostitutes, and astronomical prices for food and equipment. Those who really struck it rich were, more often than not, those who supplied the prospectors with what they needed, and not the prospectors themselves. Most of the mines played out quickly, and as people moved on to newer strikes, once bustling mining communities turned into ghost towns. Surface deposits were quickly removed through placer mining in which a lone prospector panned for gold by a stream or a small group of men used a sluice to wash off larger amounts of dirt and sand.
How the rise of electric cars endangers the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines
Soon after the Trump administration took office in , it launched an assault on our lands, oceans and vulnerable species. But if was the A sea of corn or soybeans stretching across the horizon: this is the image of American farming ingrained in our collective imagination.