Mining Ecologies: Capitalism and the Environment in Peru’s Central Highlands, 1884 – 1930
The 1890s copper rush engulfed the Central Highlands of Peru, rapidly industrializing what was once a colonial silver-mining center. As the world demanded unprecedented amounts of the rose-colored metal, production intensified, refineries sprouted across the Andes, and pollution altered the region’s landscapes. My dissertation examined environmental conflicts connected to this process of capitalist transformation. It centered on the Peruvian Central Highlands and it approached this region as an evolving political ecology in which various actors — foreign and domestic capitalists, mine-owners, workers, state officials, and local Indigenous communities — negotiated and battled over the use and control of the local environment. Mining-company records, memoirs, local newspaper collections, and scientific publications revealed that industrial mining changed the distribution of power within the Central Highland’s political ecology. Although foreign companies significantly expanded their operations during the early twentieth century, local actors managed to shape the course of this industry and change its relationship to the environment.