5th European Labour History Network Conference - Labour in Mining Working Group

Event, 11-23 June 2024, Uppsala/Sweden

Labour in Mining Working Group
Sessions and Panels Proposal

Coordinators: Dr Francesca Sanna (University of Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès, FRAMESPA,
francesca.sanna@univ-tlse2.fr); Dr José Joaquín García Gómez (University of Almeria,
josejgg@ual.es); Dr Gabriele Marcon (Durham University, Gabriele.marcon@alumni.eui.eu)


Session 1:
Mining Mobilities across the Globe: Labour, Science, and Knowledge Circulation in
Mining (15th-21st Century)

Organisers: Dr Francesca Sanna; Gabriele Marcon
Contact: Gabriele.marcon@alumni.eui.eu

Mining mobility and knowledge circulation have played a pivotal role in extractive industries
worldwide. The movement of workers, technologies, and knowledge has been mediated by state
authorities, corporations, and subcontractors through alluring and forced forms of recruitment.
Alongside these trajectories, men and women from neighboring and distant territories moved to
newly reopened mines to search for new deposits and improve their social and economic
When following mediated and non-mediated trajectories, workers produced new techniques and
used various systems of knowledge about nature and the environment which were often adopted
and/or expropriated from local and Indigenous experts. This renewed attention on mobility and
circulation has shed new light on the importance of global history in the study of mining activities.
At the same time, a micro-historical approach - which focuses on moving actors and the techniques
employed in multiple places - provides new and cross-disciplinary avenues of research on the
complex world of mining.
In recent decades, the growing demand for renewable energy has renewed attention to the study
of mobility and knowledge circulation in contemporary and past societies across the world. By
situating present issues in longer historical trajectories, the history of mining mobilities is a
promising field for interdisciplinary inquiry that seeks to offer new analytical tools to deal with our
present. This panel aims to start this conversation by bringing together ECRs and scholars from
various disciplines such as history, anthropology, archeology, sociology, geography and science and
technology studies with a particular focus on the period spanning from the fifteenth to the twentyfirst

Panel I: Knowledge and Actors in Global Mining Mobilities
Discussant: Dr Francesca Sanna

Lorenzo D’Angelo
Università La Sapienza, Roma

Mining Mobilities in Colonial West Africa: Circulation of Technology, Knowledge, Experience in
Diamond Mining

Mining technology is often the result of continuous processes of diffusion, adaptation, and reinvention
activated by workers and other experts. This paper focuses on the diamond mining
industry in West Africa in the 1930s. It aims to highlight: 1) the circulation of knowledge and
technologies between West African colonial territories, particularly from the Gold Coast (Ghana) to
Sierra Leone; 2) the circulation of European and African workers within these same territories; 3)
the dynamics of diffusion and adaptation of mining knowledge and technologies.
While in the Gold Coast diamonds were discovered by colonial geologists in 1919, in Sierra Leone
they were found some years later, in 1930. The Anglo-American company CAST, which operated in
the Gold Coast, was therefore offered the possibility to explore and evaluate the Sierra Leone’s
diamond deposits. Here, CAST’s mining engineers realized that the extractive techniques employed
in the Gold Coast were not suited to the type of diamonds found in Sierra Leone. For this reason,
they modified their extractive techniques and the machinery they had imported by sea from the
Gold Coast. Mining engineers were therefore able to ascertain that they were dealing with one of
the richest diamond areas in the world. Thus, CAST created a subsidiary, the SLST. In 1934, this
mining company obtained from the colonial government an exclusive 99-years mining license.
The development of the diamond industry activated not only processes of circulation of knowledge
and technology, but also processes of mobility of the local labourers. Initially, the SLST mainly
recruited young men from villages within the diamondiferous areas. These men, however, were
more attracted by farming than by mining. Thus, the managers of the SLST also hired workers from
the most remote villages who made available to the company not only their labour force, but also
the knowledge and skills they acquired by working in other mining sectors such as gold mining.
Soon, many learned to recognize the value of diamonds and the techniques adopted by the SLST.
Some of them used this knowledge to search for diamonds on their own, thus defying the security
forces and the colonial authorities.
Based on the analysis of colonial archives and inspired by global micro-historical approaches, this
paper argues that there are no universally effective mining technologies. Each technology must
consider the specific materiality of the extracted resources and the socio-political contexts in
which they are introduced and adapted.

Christina Mamaloukaki
Independent Scholar

Heut and Geyler’s Agency in the Global Mining and Metallurgical Industry in the late 19th century

The contribution of the engineers of the École centrale des arts et manufactures of Paris in the
mining and metallurgical industries at the end of the 19th century remained until recently largely
unknown. The current study focuses on the long-forgotten work of the pioneers of the domain,
Alfred Huet and Alfred-Édouard Geyler. Based on the archives of the Ecole centrale, which trace
the careers of former students around the world, our research is a first attempt to explore their
role in the global mining and metallurgical industry.
Soon after their graduation from the École centrale, in 1849, Huet and Geyler founded their agency
in Paris, the only, in France, specialized in the mechanical preparation of ores. Their professional
career was launched in 1866 when their comparative analysis of devices in various mines of central
Europe was rewarded with the first prize in the competition of the Society of civil engineers, while,
one year later, their innovative mining equipment won the gold medal at the International
Exposition in Paris. Recognized for their expertise in the domain, the two engineers were first
solicited in Spain, in the provinces of Badajoz, Casares and Murcia, an industrial zone mostly
occupied by French industrialists. In the following years, they expanded their activity in the
Mediterranean, establishing a modern industry in Argentella, in Corsica, a large installation for the
treatment of metal-bearing slags in Montecatini, in Tuscany, and in Sardinia for the treatment of
lead and copper ores and slags. Their high reputation led them to Latin America, where they
successfully set up several industrial installations in Mexico, Peru and Chile. Their greatest
achievement was the foundation of the French Mining Company of Lavrion, in Greece.
During a decade of intense activity, Huet and Geyler’s agency employed a large number of young
engineers, of which at least eight graduates of the École centrale. While some were occupied in
the office, analysing and improving the industrial equipment, others worked in the field,
supervising the constructions in Italy, Spain or Greece. Moving from one site to another, they
acquired useful skills, exchanged knowledge and techniques, and thus created an interactive
network among Huet et Geyler’s installations.
With more than fifty projects worldwide, Huet and Geyler’s agency turns out to hold a highly
interactive global network and a leading role in the mining and metallurgical industry in the late
19th century.

Alexandra Binnenkade
University of Basel

Golden Links. Mobility through the Lens of Prospectors: Knowledge, Money, and Local Agency in
the 19th Century

When it comes to mining, the most commonly mentioned actors are entrepreneurs or state
representatives and workers/(forced) laborers. This paper brings a hitherto overlooked player to
the scene, who held a key position in the emerging capitalist extractivism of the 19th century:
prospectors. Always on the lookout for new mining sites, these men had to know how to read
rocks and landscapes well, and how to process ore in the most efficient way. Further, how to
communicate and maintain relationships, on the one hand, with locals, who usually either worked
in the mines, gave or withdrew permissions for work to begin, or shared their knowledge of
promising sites that had often been known for generations. On the other hand, they had to be
socially versatile enough to convince urban investors, often transnationally active in the colonized
world, to commit to a particular project far from the big cities, in areas still in the process of being
discovered as good business opportunities. In this role, prospectors acted as important
intermediaries between money and knowledge, between the local and the global. To work as a
prospector required a high degree of mobility: Physically, they always seemed on their way
between extraction sites and investors' offices, between the mine and the plant, between home
and abroad. Another kind of mobility is related to mining concessions. Once we start to pin
concession sales over time on a map, patterns emerge. They visualise economic mobility and
extraction trends in space. And finally, there is the mobility of the material: Ore is carted from the
mine to the smelting plant, separated, sold as semi-finished products and delivered to sometimes
far-away refineries, from where it is further traded to the next stops on the way to its final use.
Through the case study of two Italian-French-Swiss prospectors, Pietro and Vinasco Baglioni, I
explore the notion of mobility performed by the middle management of industrial extractivism
which includes the circulation of knowledge (geology, cartography, technology), and money in a
colonizing and colonized world. The case allows me to explore, first, how these factors came
together in a simultaneously local and globalized mining boom in 19th century Switzerland, and
second, how it affected local communities in the mountains of Ticino and Valais.

Lucky Ugbudian
Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike

Mining Mobilities and Circulation of Knowledge in Nigeria

The paper examines mining mobilities and circulation of knowledge in Nigeria. Nigerians in
precolonial era engaged in mining of natural resources including copper, bronze, salt and coal as
parts of their socio-economic developments. The extracted resources were deployed in different
sectors of the economic such as fuel cooking and warming, production of artefacts, and
manufacturing of guns and other metals. The incursion of the British forces into Nigeria and the
imposition of colonial witnessed the introduction of western knowledge on mining to the local
population in the late 19th and 20th centuries. This paper intends to analyse the interplay of both
indigenous and western knowledge of mining that circulation across the Nigerian landscape and
beyond. Data for the paper will be generated from archives, newspapers, journals and books that
will be analysed qualitatively using historical and social approaches will reveal that Nigerian miners
initially resisted working for the British in different mining fields in the country especially in Jos
leading to the use of forces but the deployment of the indigenous mining skills of the miners
coupled with the technology and ideas of the British helped to improve the performance and
productivity of the miners and increase the output. The seeming improvement in the output and
flexibility in the skills deployed circulated to several parts of the country and neighbouring
countries. The paper argues that inflows of migrant labour from other parts of Africa, Asia and
Europe has further strengthened the circulation of knowledge of mining since the 19th century in

Panel II: Recruiting, Negotiating, and Exchanging Labour
Discussant: Dr Gabriele Marcon

 Nikolaus Olma
Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin

Knowing Uranium: Examining the Exchange of Mining and Radiation Knowledge In a Soviet
Uranium Mining Town

Mining and Processing Combine No. 6, situated in the Fergana Valley in Soviet Central Asia, too
often appears as little more than a footnote in the burgeoning work on the history of the Soviet
atomic programme. But the Combine’s uranium mines and hydrometallurgical plants—dispersed
across six towns and three Soviet Socialist Republics (SSR)—were the first—and the only within
Soviet borders—source of uranium in the years immediately after WWII.
This paper focuses on one of these uranium towns, Mailuu-Suu in the Kyrgyz SSR, to examine the
exchange of mining practices and radiation knowledge in the Soviet periphery in the late 1940s
and early 1950s. By doing so, it sheds light onto working conditions in Soviet uranium mines, which
becomes particular pertinent in light of the fact that the majority of Mailuu-Suu’s population and
workforce at the time were Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Nazi collaborators, Soviet PoWs, Red
Army soldiers found guilty of deserting or surrendering, and even laypersons from the Soviet
territories occupied by Nazi Germany, who were deported in 1945 to Mailuu-Suu to forcibly mine
uranium in its mines. There, they were joined by more experienced “young specialists,” who, from
1948 onwards, were urgently—and not necessarily voluntarily—“distributed” to the Combine from
across the Soviet Union to streamline uranium extraction.
Like other Soviet “atomic cities,” Mailuu-Suu was a “closed administrative-territorial formation”
that was cryptically referred to as “Enterprise Post Office Box 200” and did not appear on maps or
train schedules. Its residents were also kept in the dark about the town’s precise role, and
knowledge about the nature and properties of uranium was withheld from the very individuals
who engaged in its mining and processing.
Drawing on oral history interviews, the paper will explore the ways in which individuals with very
different backgrounds, experiences, and social status interacted, worked together, and exchanged
knowledge about mining and radiation in Mailuu-Suu’s mines, often disregarding management
instructions and state directives. Such an examination carries broader implications that stretch
beyond the specific spatial and temporal setting, as Mailuu-Suu was a training ground for dozens of
miners and engineers, who, having cut their teeth in uranium exploration, extraction, and
processing in the Fergana Valley, took their expertise to other “atomic cities” upon the closure of
Mailuu-Suu’s combine in 1968 and formed much of the knowledge that informed the Soviet
uranium project for decades.

Anil Askin
Brown University

Village Workers and Migrant Laborers of the Lead and Silver Mines in Central Anatolia

In the eighteenth-century, the Ottoman empire started to reopen old silver and gold mines which
had been abandoned due to the influx of cheap Spanish gold and silver. Alongside reopening the
old ones, the Ottoman Imperial Mint mobilized private (sub)contractors and state functionaries to
search for new reserves and speed up the extraction. Accelerated extraction was expected to
alleviate the adverse effects of military losses and fiscal crises. Mine operators, private and state,
had their armed retinues to create a mining domain and a mine order, forbidding unauthorized
trespasses and having its own jurisdiction. By following the opening of lead and silver mines in
Central Anatolia in the eighteenth-century, I forefront mining domain as a space and mine order as
a process to subsume and discipline labor. On the one hand, the mine management unhesitatingly
employed a rich repertoire of violence (murder, imprisonment, whipping, threatening, land
grabbing, and more) to force villagers to make them become villager-workers. While these
episodes of violence resemble primitive or original accumulation in the Marxian sense, they did
not create “free” workers, but the villager-workers who were bonded to labor processes through
debt and indebtedness. On the other hand, the ore extraction and refinement needed both
voluntary and forced migrant labor from the older extraction zones, which had not been
abandoned in the earlier centuries. Building on and expanding global labor history and the
taxonomies of labor, this paper proposes two things. One is to treat labor relations in mining as a
“history of multitudes” and villagers as rural proletariat resembling an intermediary labor form
between slavery and wage-labor. Shifting the focus from merchant capital’s better-studied port
cities and plantations, the lead and silver mining in rural Central Anatolia, hence, spotlights many
understudied forms of accumulation of capital and proletariat. Two, I propose that the semiproletarianization
of villager-workers was as a political choice, not a relic of pre-capitalist economic
formations, to cheapen the cost of labor and discipline the rural proletariat through debt. In sum,
my major contribution to global labor history is to bring together understudied forms of
exploitation and capital accumulation and political processes behind them.

Ariane Mak
University Paris Cité

Coal Miners’ Attitude towards Poles in the British Coal Industry

After 1945, the Polish armed forces in exile in Britain who did not wish to return to a Communist
Poland and their dependents were allowed to take up permanent residence in Britain. Aside
from these volunteers from the Polish Resettlement Corps, over 14 000 Polish “displaced
persons” also arrived in Britain as part of the European Voluntary Workers (EVW) scheme. The
British government was eager to employ this foreign labour, which blurred the distinction
between refugees and migrant workers (Kay and Miles, 1988), in essential industries and in the
coalfields in particular. Some of them were experienced miners who had worked in the highlymechanized
Polish collieries or in German mines as POWs. Yet it soon became apparent that
most of these recruits had no mining experience and had to be provided with English classes.
While there has been an increased scholarly interest in the opposition within the NUM and the
Communist Party of Great Britain to the introduction of Poles (concern about their political
beliefs, anxieties over job insecurity, etc.), little attention has been given to ordinary miners’
attitudes towards Polish workers. Yet, combined with other untapped sources, Mass-
Observation mining surveys shed new light on miners’ initial prejudice towards Poles, and the
tensions that accompanied their arrival in collieries and pit towns. While the paper will primarily
focus on the South Yorkshire coalfield, it will also compare miners’ attitudes in Nottinghamshire
and Monmouthshire. The paper thus aims to complement the existing studies focusing on the
Scottish coalfields (Lunn 1992, Watson 2014) and North Wales (Catterall and Gildart 2005).
The paper will also demonstrate that Polish recruits’ training and accommodation programs
were directly inherited from the Bevin Boys’ scheme. Launched in 1944 by the Minister of
Labour and National Service, Ernest Bevin, this scheme sent young British conscripts, selected by
ballot, down the mines. Our contention is that this early experiment shaped the way post- war
migration (Polish Resettlement Corps, EVWs, Italians, Hungarian refugees after 1956) and
mining training was dealt with in the British coalfields.

Armel Campagne
European University Institute

Subcontracting, recruitment, miners’ mobility and knowledge circulation in colonial

Between 1888 and 1936-37, the collieries of colonial Vietnam, which produced up to 2 million tons
of coal yearly, generated millions of profits, and employed tens of thousands of workers, relied on
a complex system of subcontracting for their recruitment. Recruitment, as well as most of the work
organization, from the payment of wages to the distribution of rice rations, was left to the cais, the
Vietnamese subcontractors. Only the general strategy of the collieries remained in the hands of
the Executive Boards in Paris and of the (very few) European managers on the spot, while the
companies’ mine engineers supervised the technical aspects of mining extraction.
The cais were to recruit workers from their native provinces, located in the populous Red River
Delta (northern Vietnam), thanks to their knowledge of the local situation and their personal
networks. They would then bring them to the collieries, located on the mountainous border of the
Delta (for the Dong Trieu colliery, the second most important colliery of colonial Vietnam) or at the
north of the Along Bay (for the Société des Charbonnages du Tonkin, the most important colliery of
the French colonial empire).
However, workers were not only recruited by cais on a mix of monetary advances and
“propaganda” (in the words of the director of the Dong Trieu colliery) but could also come or
return to the mine on a voluntary basis. Indeed, workers circulated freely between the mine and
their native villages, resulting in major labor shortages and colonial anxieties. This circulation of
workers also went with a circulation of knowledge about the realities of coal mining, often leading
to further recruitment difficulties for collieries with a negative reputation. Finally, this mobility
affected significantly the socio-economic life of the communities of the Red River Delta, whose
agricultural prosperity became increasingly dependent on the return of miners to their native
villages for the harvest seasons, in May and October.
This contribution, based on archival research carried out at the French colonial archives at Aix-en-
Provence and at Hanoi, aims to discuss the recruitment of collieries in colonial Vietnam from 1888
to 1936-37 and its impact on local communities in the Red River Delta, with an emphasis on
subcontracting and its networks and the circulation of miners and knowledge between recruitment
regions and the collieries.

Panel III: Moving Knowledge, Moving Workers: Capitalism, Gender, and the Environment
Discussant: TBA

Benedetta Fabrucci
University of Trieste

We Want You! Selection Procedures for German Mines in the foreign refugee camps in Italy
This paper aims at analysing the recruitment procedures of mining workers in foreign
refugee camps in Italy between the 1950s and 1960s, a time frame in which the correlation
between political and economic push factors is particularly meaningful. During the post- World
War II resettlement, the Upper Adriatic area and Trieste were a hinge between East and West
and served as collection points for several Italian and foreign refugees. As Italy was unable to
absorb that large number of displaced persons, the Adriatic city represented a stopover before
embarking for overseas destinations. The emigration of refugees was managed by the
Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, in cooperation with voluntary agencies.
The relocation processes were usually very slow and commissions of different European
countries that had the task of selecting the workforce frequently recruited workers directly in
refugee camps. This paper is the result of an ongoing local archive research and aims at
answering the following questions: who were the foreign refugees? Who was selected and by
whom? What were the recruitment procedures? Was it a permanent emigration?
The research focuses on different aspects: it deals with the recruitment procedures for foreign
workers for German mines operated directly by the European commissions and outside the
ICEM system; it stresses on selection and examinations conducted in the refugee camps and the
type of job offer; lastly, it will investigate the circulation of information about the conditions of
workers abroad and the reaction of refugees still in the camps.

Todd Cleveland
University of Arkansas

The Impact on Spousal Accompaniment Rates Due to Prior Knowledge about Labor Conditions on
Angola’s Colonial-era Diamond Mines, 1919-1975

This paper examines the impact that any prior knowledge that migrant laborers possessed
regarding living and working conditions on Angola’s colonial-era diamond mines had on their
decision to have their wives accompany them or not. In practice, the most important factor
influencing this decision was any insight into life on the mines that Angolan couples and families
could ascertain. In general, recruits who had previously worked on the mines were more amenable
to having their wives join them, having deemed these settings sufficiently safe for their spouses.
Even secondhand knowledge could also allay concerns. Prior knowledge could, however, also
dissuade husbands and wives from traveling together to the mines. For example, Mulombe
Manuel’s wife stayed behind during his first stint in 1960 for these very reasons. “I did not bring my
wife during my first contract, but I did on subsequent ones. I had heard accounts from those who
had returned after they worked there, and I wanted to see for myself first. Based on their accounts,
I was told that if I brought a pretty wife, the overseers would have her.”
This paper examines the impact that this knowledge had on those couples and families actively
determining whether wives should remain at home or join their husbands on the mines. From the
commencement of mining operations in 1919 to Angolan independence in 1975, these open-pit
mines were exclusively operated by Diamang, a multi-national corporation headquartered in
Lisbon, Portugal, which, starting in the 1950s, annually employed over 25,000 Angolan laborers.
Diamang officials desperately wanted African wives to accompany their husbands to serve as staff
in company kitchens, orchards, or on expansive farms; to prepare evening meals in mining
encampments; and to keep these spaces clean and orderly. Despite a series of company incentives
intended to encourage these women to relocate to the mines, this paper argues that it was the
knowledge – encouraging or otherwise – of living and working conditions at Diamang that
ultimately, and most significantly, impacted the rates of spousal accompaniment for migrant
recruits. The evidentiary base for this paper includes materials from Diamang’s archive and oral
testimony that I gathered during interviews with almost one hundred former company employees,
including both men and women.

Owen Coughlan
University of Oxford

Cantines, cantiniers, and the contestation of colonial oppression in the Gard coalfield,

In January 1937, the Algerian mineworkers of the Gard coalfield in France formed the Union
Fraternelle des Musulmans du Gard (UFMG) to demand improved living conditions and social
rights. Coordinating the organisation was a group of cantiniers (canteen mangers) led by Mohamed
Chalal. Studying this political formation, forged in the cantines of the coalfield, sheds new light on
how subalterns socialised, constructed bonds of solidarity, and contested discrimination in
interwar industrial France.
The French coalmining industry of the interwar period relied upon migrant labour from European
countries and, increasingly, Algeria. Almost all Algerians in French coalfields were men. By
consequence, social-reproductive labour, ‘domestic’ labour necessary for the quotidian and
generational reproduction of the labour force usually done for free by women, was outsourced to
cantiniers. This paper assesses the political potential of these actors and spaces of social
First, the paper explores how the label ‘cantine’ referred to a range of functions including eating
halls, residential buildings, or sites of sociability. Algerian cantiniers thus reproduced the colonial
workforce by providing lodging, food, social spaces, and recruitment. When cantiniers went
beyond this role, they became a real object of interest in state records. The second part of the
paper analyses police concerns about the potential for communist influence through the case of
Saïd Moula. As the 1930s drew on, subversive cantiniers were increasingly perceived as a threat to
colonial order. In the third section, the paper explores the centrality of the cantines to the UFMG
and other subversive activities. Surveillance documents and the content of the UFMG’s demands
unveil the crucial role played by a network of Algerian cantiniers and the European women who
worked with them, as well as the importance of cantines as spaces of sociability and the sharing of
grievances. This organisation enabled a sustained autonomous expression of Algerian resistance to
what they diagnosed as colonial and racial oppression that was taken seriously by employers,
supported by some local trade unionists, and criminalised by administrators. In 1939, some
cantiniers came to be suspected of abusing their social position to encourage desertion of mining
By studying the space of the cantine and the figure of the cantinier, this paper affords important
new insights into the development of resistance to colonial oppression in the metropole. It
contributes to labour and colonial histories by exploring the relationship between racial
hierarchies, the practice and spatiality of reproductive labour, and resistance.

Daniele Valinsena
Université de Liège

Coal Lives. Migration, Toxicity, and the Heritage of Industrialization in Belgium

On June 23, 1946, Italy and Belgium signed the so-called “men in exchange for coal agreement”.
Italy agreed in sending 50,000 workers each year to Belgium in exchange for at least 2,500 tons of
coal per months according to the extraction rate (Morelli, 1988). The bi-later agreement between
the two States was the first of a series of alike treaties which would then regulate migration in the
future EU for almost three decades. By openly equaling workers’ bodies to a natural resource
conceived as a commodity, Belgium and Italy revealed the capitalist vision that informed the coalled
metabolism (Valisena, 2020) that alimented most of the world economy in the aftermath of the
Second World War. Such a metabolic relation needed to consume coal as much as it needed to
consume workers’ bodies, and the constant influx of new healthy migrants was an essential
component of that socio-natural extractivist project.
Building upon oral and archival sources pertaining to miners’ experiences, as well as by analyzing
documents produced by the Belgian coal trust –– Fedechar –– and the medico-technical institute
that provided guidance in occupational health policy for miners in Belgium –– Institut d’Hygiène
des Mines, I am to reconstruct the role of migrant miners in the Belgian metabolism of coal.
Notably, I am to focus on how the coal-led socio-ecology that governed Belgian economy framed,
valued, and regulated Italian migrants’ bodies and migrant workers at large, as well as the
discourses that were produced by Belgian state institutions in relation to miners’ health,
productivity, expendability, and replaceability. At the same time, by adopting an Environmental
Humanities perspective, I am to show how Italian workers experienced, conceived, and resisted to
such a hazardous socio-ecology.


Session 2:
Mining–Agriculture Relationships: Influences on labour organisation and labour

Organisers: José Joaquín García Gómez (University of Almería), Miguel Ángel Pérez de Perceval
(University of Murcia) and Aron Cohen Amselem (University of Granada)
Contact: josejgg@ual.es

The historical relationship between mining and agriculture is long and multifaceted. Both
economic sub‐sectors are part of the primary sector and are based on human exploitation of the
natural environment, both mineral and vegetable.
As a consequence, agriculture and mining often share a physical environment, which they often
compete with each other in various ways. Both sub‐sectors share space, financing, infrastructure
and, especially, labour markets. They are developed in places that depend on specific
characteristics: mineral resources in the first case and soil endowments, water resources and
climate mainly in the second. The difference lies in the greater time constraints of mining, which
exploits non‐renewable resources. It is normal for mining activity to have an impact on agricultural
areas, influencing each other in different ways. Historical mining has until recently been (and still is
in some areas) labour intensive, so there is a heavy dependence on the labour market, both for
unskilled and more skilled labour (which is still the case). The initial source of supply was the
agricultural environment, with many mining centres characterised by dual work, organised in
different ways. The previous structures or customs of the area where extraction took place had a
different but important influence on the new forms of labour organisation, the use of child or
female labour. The degree of women's participation in mining has been shown to be closely related
to this earlier substratum and to the conditions under which mining evolved in its early stages.
The demand for employment in the mines, which in some areas generated important migratory
movements, altered the working conditions in the areas where it was introduced, leading to
conflicts with the previous economic activity. In some parts of Europe, it was even proposed in the
19th century to temporarily stop working in the mines during periods of peak agricultural activity.
The strategies of the mining companies were to ensure the supply of workers, so they developed
strategies to fix and indoctrinate the workforce. Depending on the circumstances in which
extraction took place, they could take advantage of the joint work of mines and agriculture or they
could try to develop a specific working environment, adapted to the numerical and qualification
needs of the exploitations. This is what happened in some basins where the dual worker was
initially praised and later attempts were made to professionalise mine workers, separating them
from the rural environment or from the lack of definition in which they could be found at times.
The industrial paternalism of the mining companies was also at work here, in this effort to control,
fix and train their employees.
Not only were factors related to the labour market and the supply of labour the only elements of
labour interference. The new activity and the population centres that developed in the heat of the
exploitation of the subsoil influenced and/or collided with the pre‐existing population, altering
their situation to some extent. New demands for work, complementary employment possibilities,
economic changes, interference with basic resources (mainly water and land), pollution (of people,
animals or flora), cultural elements, violence (a characteristic of the past and present of these
districts), etc. were factors that influenced the living conditions of the environment. Finally, the
decline and closure of the mines is another element of influence that can translocate the economy
of the districts where this activity was established.
The relationship between agriculture and mining has been analysed in numerous works, both by
agricultural and mining history researchers. However, despite its importance, it has not been
placed as the central focus of research or, at least, as the core of the debate on its historical
evolution. This session aims to fill in some of this gap by exploring the influence of this relationship
on the development of labour markets and labour organisation.

Panel I: Relations between mining and agriculture
Chair: Dr. Aron Cohen

Francesca Sanna
University of Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès
In beetween fields : labour pluriactivity in mining and agriculture in Italy (XIX-XX)
Eva Trescastro, María Tormo, Pep Bernabéu and Alba Martínez
University of Alicante
Food in the mining areas of southeastern Spain. Analysis of a manuscript of recipes from
the 19th century
Paulo E. Guimaraes
University of Evora
Mining and agricultural labour markets and labour organisation in Portugal from the Liberal
Era to the New State
Adolfo Turbanti
Istituto Storico Grossetano della Resistenza e dell'Età Contemporanea
Relations between Mining and Agriculture in Italy

Panel II: Environmental and social effects derived from the Mining and Agriculture relations
Chair: Dr José Joaquín García Gómez

Sakis Dimitriadis
Land Ownership, Mining and Labour Market Fragmentation in Northern Euboea, 1850-1920
Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas
Pedro Gabriel Silva and Octávio Sacramento
Between mining and farming: social and ecological transforma3ons of wolfram extrac3on in
a Portuguese agrarian context (1930s-1970s)
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro
Agustín Fleta, Geneviève Brisson y Aron Cohen
Minería y conflictos por el agua. Miradas cruzadas desde España y Canadá
Universidad de Sevilla, Université du Québec à Rimouski and Universidad de Granada
Juan D. Pérez-Cebada and Pedro G. Silva
Mining, Agriculture and Pollution
Universidad de Huelva y Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro
Aron Cohen
Gran minería, pequeño campesinado: transición al capitalismo en un área de la Andalucía
“profunda” (fines siglo XIX-siglo XX)
Universidad de Granada

Attached document(s)