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Valuation conflicts in Madagascar’s mining reform: A pragmatic inquiry into surplus distribution from strategic transition minerals

Nicolas Hercelin & Sabine Dörry (2024)

Environment and Planning (serie F), Online first

Abstract. Lithium-ion battery (LIB) production as a central part of decarbonisation strategies is driving mineral extraction in countries of the global South, where they exacerbate existing conflicts over the creation and distribution of value. Value, however, is a contested concept. Following the pragmatic sociology of values, we argue that the analysis of value creation and distribution cannot be separated from the intersubjective and normative conflicts over valuation. We examine valuation controversies in Madagascar as a mining dispute by describing the grammar of values on the example of taxation design in Madagascar’s mining reform influenced by LIB production. Empirical evidence from ethnographic fieldwork and expert interviews on negotiations between stakeholders’ different principles of value helped identify conflicting value justifications and finding local compromises. Here, the pervasive nature of neoliberal economisation is monopolised by a specific interpretation of value wired to investors’ expectations and complicated by path-dependent legacies. Our analysis illustrates how asymmetric economic power favours particular economic and operating registers of a ‘green capitalism’ valuation system. Building on the analytical gain of Heinich’s novel pragmatic value approach, we show how the recent mining reform in Madagascar is contested and that compromise around value remains fragile (or impossible) in the current institutional context.

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