Not only a man’s world: Women’s involvement in artisanal mining in eastern DRC

Artisanal mining is a key source of livelihood in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area mostly known for its chronic instability and violent conflict. Although men make up the majority of the artisanal mining population, mining is also central in the livelihoods of many girls and women. In this paper, we take issue with the fact that the current emphasis on conflict-related sexual violence to women has obscured the role of women in artisanal mining. Furthermore, we criticize the tendency to promote women’s departure from the mining sector, which has been presented as the best strategy to protect them against the threats of sexual violence, exploitation and oppression. We argue that, given the lack of viable alternative livelihoods in eastern DRC, policymakers should invest more time, energy and resources in trying to understand and to strengthen women’s positions in the mining sector itself.

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• We highlight the negative consequences of presenting artisanal mining and sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as two sides of the same coin.
• We criticize the tendency among policymakers to stimulate women’s departure from artisanal mining.
• We question the viability of the alternative livelihoods approach.
• We argue in favor of more research on the multiple roles of women in artisanal mining.
• We advise that policy should be grounded in the actual experiences and livelihood strategies of women working in the mining areas.
  • a Special Chair Humanitarian Aid & Reconstruction, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • b Conflict Research Group, Ghent University, Universiteitstraat 8, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
  • c Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 8130, 6700 EW Wageningen, The Netherlands


So you think you’re tough? Getting serious about gender in mining

Written by Dean Laplonge sold by Dean Laplonge
This book provides a critical look at “women in mining” and provides a compelling argument for a more contemporary approach towards gender in mining.
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Dr Dean Laplonge who specialises in gender in mining through his consultancy Factive has recently published a thought-provoking book.


The mining industry has been tackling the issue of gender for almost 25 years. But very little has changed.

So you think you’re tough: Getting serious about gender in mining brings together many of Dean Laplonge’s ideas and consulting experiences on gender and mining. In this book, he criticises the mining industry’s obsession with “women in mining”, and bemoans the lack of attention that is paid in this industry to broader research on gender.

Drawing on ideas from the fields of gender studies and cultural studies, Dean creates a new vision for gender in the mining industry which promises to break through the current impasse. Out is the old view of gender which relies on a distinct separation of men from women. And in comes a new view of gender which focuses on multiple and diverse ways of acting out as men and women. The shift appears simple, as we move from being genders to doing genders. But the application in the mining industry is proving to be difficult, not least because it demands we think about gender in terms of men and masculinities.

This book provides practical ways for mining companies to start introducing this new vision of gender into their workplaces. By focusing on the relationships between gender and safety, and gender and leadership, Dean argues we can begin to understand how mining is already gendered. And we can then finally start to develop real gender diversity on mine sites.

 Mining Coal and Undermining Gender: Rhythms of Work and Family in the American West

Though mining is an infamously masculine industry, women make up 20 percent of all production crews in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin—the largest coal-producing region in the United States.  How do these women fit into a working culture supposedly hostile to females?  This is what anthropologist Jessica Smith Rolston, herself a onetime mine worker and the daughter of a miner, set out to discover.  Her answers, based on years of participant-observation in four mines and extensive interviews with miners, managers, engineers, and the families of mine employees, offer a rich and surprising view of the working “families” that miners construct.  In this picture, gender roles are not nearly as straightforward—or as straitened—as stereotypes suggest.

Gender is far from the primary concern of coworkers in crews.  Far more important, Rolston finds, is protecting the safety of the entire crew and finding a way to treat each other well despite the stresses of their jobs.  These miners share the burden of rotating shift work—continually switching between twelve-hour day and night shifts—which deprives them of the daily rhythms of a typical home, from morning breakfasts to bedtime stories. Rolston identifies the mine workers’ response to these shared challenges as a new sort of constructed kinship that both challenges and reproduces gender roles in their everyday working and family lives.

Crews’ expectations for coworkers to treat one another like family and to adopt an “agricultural” work ethic tend to minimize gender differences.  And yet, these differences remain tenacious in the equation of masculinity with technical expertise, and of femininity with household responsibilities. For Rolston, such lingering areas of inequality highlight the importance of structural constraints that flout a common impulse among men and women to neutralize the significance of gender, at home and in the workplace.

At a time when the Appalachian region continues to dominate discussion of mining culture, this book provides a very different and unexpected view—of how miners live and work together, and of how their lives and work reconfigure ideas of gender and kinship.

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More background information on the author and the motivation for writing her book here


Mining Women: Gender in the Development of a Global Industry, 1670 to 2005

Mining Women: Gender in the Development of a Global Industry, 1670 to 2005

Product Description

Each essay is important for understanding the ways in which gender is imagined, lived, inscribed, and contested in specific historical and material contexts. They investigate not only gender’s role in the domestic and cultural aspects of mining communities, but also its impact on the emerging industrial and capitalist system from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. Mining Women presents eighteen new essays that illuminate how gender identities and inequality have been constructed historically and sustained in what could be hailed as the first truly global enterprise and arguably the most “masculine” of industries–mining. These essays explore gender relations and women’s work and activism in different parts of the world and from multiple perspectives. As a whole, the volume reveals that despite the tremendous variation between industries, cultures, and national experiences, women have challenged the constraints of gender definitions on their lives and work.


Women Miners in Developing Countries, Pit Women


Contrary to their masculine portrayal, mines have always employed women in valuable and productive roles. Yet, pit life continues to be represented as a masculine world of work, legitimizing men as the only mineworkers and large, mechanized, and capitalized operations as the only form of mining. Bringing together a range of case studies of women miners from past and present in Asia, the Pacific Region, Latin America and Africa, this book makes visible the roles and contributions of women as miners. It also highlights the importance of engendering small and informal mining in the developing world as compared to the early European and American mines. The book shows that women are engaged in various kinds of mining and illustrates how gender and inequality are constructed and sustained in the mines, and also how ethnic identities intersect with those gendered identities. Edited by Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Australian National University, Australia and Martha Macintyre, University of Melbourne, Australia For more information about this book contact the publisher Ashgate at Email: