International Development Planning Review

Labour power, materiality and protests in Ghana’s petroleum and gold mines

International Development Planning Review (2022), 44, (3), 289–315.


We examine the role of resource materiality in extractive labour protests in Ghana. Focusing on petroleum and gold mining, we centre contestations as part of the resources’ socio-natural constituents. Research data was obtained from social conflict databases, newspapers and field interviews. The analysis focused on themes and discourses on protest emergence, mobilisation, negotiation and impacts. Findings show how petroleum labour protesters use passivity and chokepoints to impede gas supply to households. Ghana petroleum workers attempt to garner structural power through workplace power, albeit unsuccessfully. Conversely, gold mineworkers protest by actively reappropriating machinery and extraction spaces. They centre protests in mining towns to emphasise their work as lifeblood. The ‘landedness’ of gold and the introduction of surface mining reshaped such protest tactics. Thus, materiality can help excavate the relational and comparative logic, tactics and potentialities of labour power in resource extracting countries. We suggest extractive labour to forge stronger cross-class coalitions to align workplace exploitation with broader issues of accumulation by dispossession.

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Author details

Otchere-Darko, William

Ablo, Austin Dziwornu