The temporalities of extractive frontiers: The promises of booms and going bust in the Tanzanian gas sector

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Abstract

Research on extraction in the global margins has often emphasised the transformative effects that occur during the process of becoming a ‘resource frontier’. However, much of this research often focuses on the spatial transformations, with the temporalities of the resource frontier often being relegated to the background. This article places the temporalities of resource frontiers at the forefront. It does so by exploring the onshore and offshore gas sector in Mtwara, Tanzania, specifically how the international commodity cycle and the lifecycle of natural gas wells changed Mtwara from an ‘economic backwater’ to a ‘resource frontier’, and how this reshaping of territory has altered perceptions of time. High global gas prices, combined with the most labour-intensive period of the gas well lifecycle, led to an anticipated resource boom for the region, with national and local elites changing their economic activity in preparation for this boom. Such anticipation was met with promises of increased employment and economic development, and initial changes aided the impression that such anticipation for the boom was justified. When the construction of wells and facilities was finished and global gas prices were falling, Mtwara as a ‘resource frontier’ was once again reshaped to one of a ‘quasi frontier’ – where the potential for extraction remains but lacks the correct market factors to fully create an economic ‘boom’ and become a ‘resource frontier’. The result was that while a traditional ‘resource boom’, did not occur, the speculative effects of extractive investment ensured that both a boom, and a ‘bust’ occurred in the region, severely affecting short-, medium-, and long-term economic plans of local inhabitants and domestic investors alike, with many negative effects of the boom remaining.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103664
JournalGeoforum
Volume138
Early online date25 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023

Keywords

  • Commodity cycle
  • Development
  • Extractive industries
  • Frontiers
  • Tanzania
  • Temporality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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