Samuel Spiegel

Current affiliation:
Lecturer in International Development, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Lecturer in International Development, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

The Political Ecology of the Global Gold Rush: Poverty and Development in African Mining Communities

The world is currently experiencing an unprecedented gold rush, with as many as 30 million people depending on small-scale gold mining for their livelihood. Mr. Spiegel's research undertakes empirical and theoretical examination of this phenomenon and its social, political and environmental challenges. Integrating fieldwork in Africa with analysis of international policy dialogues, this research is applying a human capabilities approach to examine how local and global actors can better intertwine efforts to reduce poverty and protect the environment.

Samuel Spiegel is already well on his way as an accomplished scholar and social and environmental activist. He has several peer-reviewed publications in acclaimed journals and UN reports. In conjunction with Canadian development agencies and the United Nations he has worked on development issues in Africa, Asia and South and Central America.

In 2005, Sam's work with the United Nations took him to Zimbabwe to conduct a pilot project on environmental management in artisanal mining communities. Striking up a friendship with a group of women miners led to a dialogue about people, ecosystems, economies, and governance. Their collective efforts led to the development of community education programs and a set of environmental policy recommendations that are now being reviewed by the government. His travels give him inspiration in exploring the diversity of knowledge around the globe and the links between societies living oceans apart.

As the world experiences an unprecedented gold rush, millions of impoverished miners in developing countries attempt to eke out a living by toxic methods of gold extraction. Sam seeks to ameliorate the environmental impact of widespread mining, and at the same time contribute to the well-being of the miners and their families. Conducting fieldwork in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique he documents local voices, stories, and community achievements that could guide future policy efforts and capacity-building models. His research investigates how sustainable social change in this setting involves intertwined understandings of political, economic and environmental phenomena. He aims to bring to the global conscience the experiences of these communities that will hopefully aid in addressing issues of social justice and human rights.