Methodology

Abstract

This chapter explains the methodology adopted in this project to learn about experiences from community perspectives, taking an exploratory, interpretive approach to investigate the impacts of the mining industry on women in Thai and Lao mining communities. In order to capture the experiences and interpretations of relevant actors in the mining industry, semi-structured personal and group interviews functioned as an appropriate data-collection technique. This technique helps the researchers to focus on language use by key informants, as well as contextual and relational aspects expressed by the interviewees.
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Research Locations

Vilabouly (ວິລະບູລີ), Lao PDR

Vilabouly is a district in Savannakhet province. It hosts the Sepon mine, the country's first significant foreign mining venture. Sepon is an open-pit copper and gold-mining operation in Southern Laos. Lane Xang Minerals Ltd. (LXML) is the registered name of the company that operates the Sepon mine. Lan Xang is the Lao name for the Kingdom of Laos and means ‘one million elephants’. MMG LXML owns 90% of Sepon and the government of Laos owns the other 10%. The Sepon gold project commenced production in 2002; its copper operation commenced in 2005.

The surrounding villages are largely dependent for survival on rice production and foraging of non-timber forest products. Per capita incomes vary widely depending on participation in mining employment, which is influenced by three main factors: access (living in the proximity to the mine); ability to meet minimum educational standards (numeracy and literacy) set by the mine; andpassing a basic health check. However, if the six villages closest to the mine and the district capital are excluded from the calculations, the average per capita income of other neighbouring villages is US$270 per year, 44% of which is derived from mine-related sources.

The villagers continue to identify food security and access to clean water and sanitation as their greatest needs, with 40%-50% of families reporting insufficient food intake (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2012).

Savannakhet has a total land area of 21,774 km2. About 90% of the area is flat land and about 10% is considered mountainous, located in the eastern part of the province (as shown in Figure 1.) Savannakhet is rich in natural resources including agricultural land, forests, rivers, mineral deposits and biodiversity.

According to statistical data provided by Savannakhet PAFO, the province has a total agricultural land area of about 1.5 million hectares, representing about 68% of the total provincial land area. However, a large share of this agricultural land is considered to have low fertility. Currently, about 209,589 ha, representing only approximately 14% of the total agricultural land, or about 9.6% of total provincial area, is in use for agricultural production. The remaining 86% of Savannakhet’s agricultural land is not yet utilised for any purpose.

In February 2015, the Lao Government acknowledged that Vilabouly District, where the Sepon mine is located, had graduated from the list of 46 poorest districts in the Lao PDR (MMG, 2015). Vilabouly is also home to various ethnic groups such as Bru, Phu Tai, and Tai leu. From 46 villages in this area, our team randomly selected seven villages in Vilabouly district: Ban Vangyang, Namkeep, Ban Noonsomboon, Padong, Boungkham, Nongkadeang, and Ban Huay Suan.

Figure 1.

Research area in Lao PDR

978-1-5225-3811-0.ch003.f01

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