By Simon Bornschier, Manuel VogtAbstract:
Natural resource exploitation often generates negative externalities and fuels social conflict. Yet, patterns of social resistance against mining differ considerably within and across countries. What explains differences in the occurrence and duration of anti-mining protest? Distinguishing explicitly between protest onset and continuation, we theorize that communities affected by mining engage in social protest to signal their grievances to political decision-makers. Yet, once protests have erupted, their duration depends on the institutional setup that shapes these decision-makers’ likelihood of responding to grievances. Under conditions of high decentralized responsiveness, where regional governments have both the competences to enact policies and the electoral incentives to make use of them, regional governments are likely to rely on “policy side payments” in mining-unrelated domains to assuage mining-related grievances. Thus, decentralized responsiveness should reduce the duration of anti-mining protest. To test our argument, we introduce novel subnational data on mining activities and anti-mining protests in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador from 2002 to 2013. Using dynamic logit regression models, we find that the determinants of protest onset and continuation differ systematically. While the volume of mining activities impacts protest onset, the duration of anti-mining protests decreases significantly under conditions of high decentralized responsiveness. These results have implications for our understanding of governments’ ability to balance the economic benefits and social costs of natural resource exploitation, as well as for the interplay between institutionalized and non-institutionalized arenas of political contention.