The New Material and Political Life of Mining Residues in the Cartagena Sierra Minera (Spain)
Prof Christelle Gramaglia, Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement
6 May 2021. Recording available below.
The Sierra Minera of Cartagena is a former mining territory located in the South-East of Spain. If the extraction of lead started in pre-Roman times before stopping in the 1990s, the scars of the last decades of exploitation are the most visible. Minerals have long been extracted underground and artisanal, but in the 1950s, Penarroya bought most of the concessions and opened the first open pits. Technical innovations have led to the intensification of extractive practices, transforming the soil into a succession of holes, acid lakes and piles of reddish tailings. Today, the Sierra covers an area of 10 km2. There are about 80 piles of uneven-sized tailings, not rehabilitated. The erosion precipitates residues in the nearest towns and villages.
This communication discusses the fate of residues, whose toxicity has long been ignored, before being the subject of controversy, since a scientist analyzed dust samples taken from school yards then children’s nails and hair. We retrace the trajectory of the alert which made it possible to understand residues dispersion as well as their transformation into salts that are particularly bioavailable. We focus on the almost “chemo-ethnographic” investigation, which has since been conducted with residents on several fronts to 1. locate this efflorescence and make visible the threat they pose, and 2. ask the question of their existence, in a form and in places where their harmfulness is increased, on a political level. We conclude with some of the ideas that the coalition has formulated to reduce exposure, allowing survival in ruins.
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This seminar is part of the Making the unknown knowable seminar series. Click here to read more