Beyond Extraction: A Counter-Conference in the Heart of Extractive Capital

Devin Holterman (Beyond Extraction / York University), Caren Weisbart (Mining Injustice Solidarity Network) and Christopher Alton (Graphe / University of Toronto)

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They say you can judge the health of the mining business by the escalators at the Toronto Metro Convention Center during the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention. (Steve Fiscor, Engineering and Mining Journal, 7 March 2019)

What is PDAC? How do we counter it?

Every March, leading mineral explorers, miners, and service providers gather in Toronto for the meeting of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC). This is the largest such gathering in the world and it takes place in Toronto for a good reason – nearly 60% of global mining companies are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, making Toronto a global mecca for the mining industry. Across an investor’s exchange, trade show, and conference sessions, PDAC represents a startling aggregation of extractive industry power. At Beyond Extraction, we centre PDAC as the focal point of our efforts to direct critical attention to the inner workings of the extractive industry and its global networks.

What is PDAC?

Pegged as “the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention,” and situated within Canada’s financial and business capital, PDAC works to facilitate the liberation of capital from local regulatory bodies and resistances, promoting extraction as the pinnacle source of economic growth and well-being. Over the course of four days of presentations, investor exchanges, galas, and hockey tournaments, Toronto reveals itself as the extractive capital of the world, the veritable “belly of the beast,” whose tentacles reach far across time and space wreaking havoc in communities and ecologies around the world. The many violences of PDAC’s primary sponsors is well documented and yet the institution itself, its effectiveness as both a legitimizing force and one that further masks and obfuscates the ills of extraction are less discussed. Thus, PDAC offers a critical case study of extractivism in its own right and an opportunity to organize, disrupt, and challenge industry while producing a radical series of inquiries and networks into its operations.

How do we counter it?

The Beyond Extraction Counter-Conference is organized around two central questions: What is PDAC? How do we counter it? Longer versions of these questions include: How do we identify and understand all the actors, their roles, their reach, the forms of governance they are accountable to, and the responsibilities they elude, at PDAC? What kinds of critical activities – research, protest – are required to intervene and stop the human and ecological destruction caused by the activities celebrated at PDAC?

Beyond Extraction sees PDAC as an opportunity to engage in a multi-day series of events that will read, map, reveal, and counter extractive corporate-state power. As a concurrent workshop to PDAC, between February 28 and March 4, 2020, BECC will be a venue for scholarly activities, organizing, training, and a physical base for those working against the global extractivist economy: in essence a meeting place for resistance, learning, and dissemination.

BECC is but one of many activities taking place alongside PDAC 2020. Stay tuned for more information.

Beyond Extraction (BE)

Beyond Extraction (BE) is a place for researchers, writers, artists, and activists to share and collaborate on efforts to critique extraction. ‘Extraction’ is understood as a modality, an ontology of production, consumption, waste, and an industry practice. BE investigates and resists extraction; providing a platform for the voices, stories, struggles, and techniques that confront the imperial promises of industry and an extractive mode of social organization itself.

BE is currently engaged in two major projects:

i) the publication of an open-access, peer-reviewed publication entitled Before/After Lives of Extraction. The publication will launch in early 2020 and will be hosted here;

ii) the Beyond Extraction Counter Conference (BECC): along with partners BE will host the BECC in response to the mining sector’s largest conference hosted in Toronto each year. The counter conference intends to scale up existing resistance efforts and contest extractive industries’ narratives of “sustainable mining,” its tendency to essentialism economic growth, and its desire to transform local economies into extractivist frontiers.