Making a living in the diverse economy of concrete: Commoning in a contested quarry

Pryor Placino
Katherine Gibson

Abstract: The rapid expansion of urban development in Asia over the last 50 years has seen a rise in demand for building materials. From large construction companies to squatter settlers seeking to improve their housing, concrete is the building material of choice. In the Philippines there is plentiful supply of the limestone and aggregate (sand and gravel) required for concrete production. Alongside the large quarries owned by major corporations are small, often illegal quarries, supplying aggregate to the construction industry. In these shadow places informal miners scratch out a precarious livelihood. They are members of a vast artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) workforce that is global in extent. This paper situates informal aggregate mining in the diverse economy of concrete in the Philippines and within the context of global ASM studies. With a detailed study of one quarry on the edges of Metro Manila, it reveals how mining contributes to the survival portfolio of poor households. Without romanticising the lives of quarry labourers, we identify a range of negotiations by which informal miners create a community of commoners in a contested quarry site. This research provides insight into the capacities that informal miners could bring to designing more sustainable development pathways within and beyond the extractive industry.

Suggested citation

Placino, P., & Gibson, K. (2022). Making a living in the diverse economy of concrete: Commoning in a contested quarry. Asia Pacific Viewpoint.