Silver Mine Protest in Morocco – Wealth Inequality despite Resource Income

For the past two and a half years, there has been ongoing demonstrations protesting a silver mine near Imider, Morocco.  Local residents claim that the mine has polluted and depleted scarce water reserves, but has failed to improve economic conditions in this sparsely populated region.  Additionally, the Moroccan monarchy is also a major shareholder in the mine, which has led to additional complaints regarding income inequality.  In essence, the local villagers feel that they are left to deal with the consequences of mining, but have seen no improvements in living conditions  The mine operators claim that they have made strides regarding local developments, but that they cannot be expected to overcome the local poverty by themselves.

This is just one example of the problematic situation of many African economies which remain heavily dependent on exporting resources for economic growth, as these extracting industries have typically failed to effectively distribute wealth across the population.  Ultimately, one of the major goals of democratization is to guarantee greater civilian control of the state and government institutions, which would allow for greater civilian access to economic resources and opportunities, including growth engendered by resource wealth.  Certainly, this does seem to be happening in places such as Botswana where diamond wealth has helped finance a stable democratic state.  It remains to be seen, however, whether the protesters at Imider can encourage change and gain greater access both to local governance, as well as the income generated by the mine.

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3 Responses to Silver Mine Protest in Morocco – Wealth Inequality despite Resource Income

  1. You’re right to say that this example mimics the resource curse that plagues so many African countries, especially those in which the government has control over key natural resource sectors. Though in Morocco, economic policies might suggest that the opposite should be occurring. Over the past few decades, Morocco has shown a pattern of privatization of many industries previously controlled by the monarchy. However, this case suggests that, despite increased privatization, the government continues to maintain control over industry (if only less directly) through acting as a “private” shareholder.

  2. amandacatalina says:

    Have there been any consequences for the protestors in terms of government backlash or police action? It would be interesting to see the response (if any) from the government.

  3. sorensond says:

    From what I read and have seen, there have been several arrests made of protesters, but it doesn’t seem that there has been much of a response from the government. The company has followed some development initiatives, but the reality is that this is a very small group from a sparsely populated region. Since these protests don’t really pose any security threats, it doesn’t seem like there has been much of a response at all.

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