International Joint Ventures in Industrial Gold Mining, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Harm-Production in Sudan

Enrico Ille


Violent conflicts in Sudan, especially those in Darfur in the early years of the new century, led state and non-state actors in the United States to exert heightened pressure on companies to divest from Sudan, or to prove that their activities in that country do not contribute to the conflicts. In this case study of La Mancha, a company involved in a gold mining joint venture in Sudan from 2006 to 2015, I examine whether and how it reacted publicly to this pressure. I trace how corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the continuation of harm-production was treated in its public statements, what conceptual gaps are perceptible in these statements, and how they were (re)produced in US-based activist circles. On this basis, I highlight the selective acknowledgement of responsibility which is based on assessments of harm-production by external actors excluding those directly affected by it. More generally, the case study relates to debates on CSR in Africa’s extractive industries, especially within the frame of complex business structures involving both state actors and foreign investors that make it difficult and nonetheless urgent to identify units of responsibility. I suggest that a communication disconnect during the process of identification can be adequately approached through a conceptualisation of this process as an “arena” of actors who relate to a common issue but not necessarily to each other.

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