Understanding small-scale gold mining practices: An anthropological study on technological innovation in the Vale do Rio Peixoto (Mato Grosso, Brazil)

Luciana Massaro*, Marjo de Theije

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Amazonian countries has undergone important technological improvements in recent decades. Nevertheless, this type of mining is largely associated with the use of rudimentary, low-tech and often manual methods, with inefficient gold recovery. This article aims at investigating how innovations and improvements in the technology used in small-scale gold mines are connected to a broader perception of the miners about the integration of more modern and effective techniques. A technographical approach enabled the understanding of mining practices as embodied cultural knowledge and to fill the information gap between the study of materials and techniques with the study of people and communities. We discuss how the technology of small-scale gold mining in the region of Peixoto de Azevedo (Mato Grosso, Brazil) has changed since the early 1980s, giving particular attention to the recent introduction of two main innovations: the mechanized exploration drill and the cyanidation process. In this region, miners are successfully organized in cooperatives efforts to mutually reinforce the integration of innovative and effective techniques. Finally, we introduce the three notions of foresight (visão), agility (agilidade) and development (desenvolvimento) that emerged during fieldwork and conceptually frame the likeliness of acceptance and promulgation of innovations in this context. Sustainable mining may only succeed if a wider vision of the future of the sector (foresight) joins public policies that facilitate the practical process of innovation during each phase of its realization (agility) in order to achieve an advanced social status of the local community (development).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-635
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date17 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2018


  • Anthropology
  • Brazil
  • Development
  • Innovation
  • Small-scale gold mining
  • Technology

VU Research Profile

  • Science for Sustainability


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