Scholarly analysis has, in the past, rarely focused on the role that diverging notions of justice play in the evolution of natural resource conflicts. The consequence of this is a lack of systematic knowledge about the justice claims that actors involved in natural resource conflicts put forward. This is surprising considering that, upon closer inspection, justice claims advanced by affected actors are easily identifiable within any particular resource conflict. Be it the population in the Niger Delta claiming a greater share of oil revenues or an end to the contamination of fragile local ecosystems, or workers of the Marikana mine in South Africa protesting for higher wages and full rights for a particular union, almost all local claimmakers invoke ideas of justice as a basis for their demands. In International Relations, the disregard for considering justice in the context of natural resource conflicts is best illustrated in literature dealing with the causes of civil war. Notable overlaps exist between the concept of justice and the concept of grievance within the so-called greed versus grievance debate (Collier and Hoeffler, 2004; Basedau and Lay, 2009; Collier et al., 2009). However, this literature generally conceptualizes natural resources as an essential element of the greed paradigm rather than as a grievance-related explanation for civil wars. In contrast, disciplines such as political theory and philosophy have long identified the exploitation and distribution of natural resources as a central point of contention in achieving (global) justice (Beitz, 1979; Pogge, 2002; Wenar, 2008; Nili, in this volume). These scholars have, however, mostly been interested in developing abstract principles of justice; as such, when they do mention empirical justice claims made by actors, it is primarily for illustrative purposes. Social anthropologists and scholars engaged in development and regional studies, on the other hand, have frequently conceded analytical priority to justice considerations. Their explanations for the root causes and/or dynamics of ongoing resource conflicts often highlight locally perceived grievances publically expressed in terms of justice (Latouche, 1997: 137-139; Ferguson, 2006: 35-38). Despite having this focus, work done
by scholars in these disciplines and research fields apparently does not differentiate between different types of justice claims in any systematic manner. This chapter analyses justice claims by local communities along with the governance initiatives that have emerged in response to these claims. We ask whether these governance initiatives adequately respond to local justice claims and identify the significance of misperceptions or misinterpretations of justice claims made by the actors involved in given conflicts. The chapter demonstrates the importance of distinguishing between various types of justice claims in order to achieve a better understanding of conflict dynamics and increase our knowledge of the governance mechanisms used to address them. In order to analyse local justice claims more systematically, we propose a threefold conceptualization of justice based on the work of Nancy Fraser (2009), which analytically covers distribution, recognition and representation-related claims (section 2, see also Schmitt, in this volume). We argue that the disentanglement of these different justice claims is important as the misperception of particular claims by addressees – such as corporations, state actors, or international organizations – might lead to governance initiatives that prove not only insufficient for satisfying local demands but could even further exacerbate the conflict dynamics. We apply this argument to a mining conflict in Peru, where numerous local conflicts exist in the context of large-scale mining projects (section 3). These conflicts have generally emerged between corporations and the affected communities, though they also invariably involve state institutions. A common response has been to install Dialogue Tables (Mesas de Diálogo) to reach a compromise between parties to the conflict. The case study presented here focuses on the conflict between the population of Ilo, in Peru’s Moquegua region, and the Southern Copper Corporation mining company. The analysis is based on field research carried out between June and August 2013, including interviews conducted with various stakeholders and participant observation in Mesa sessions.2 Our empirical analysis shows that the mesa de diálogo in Ilo has not been successful because of its inadequacy in addressing the local justice claims. While Southern Copper Corporation’s discourse focused on voluntary (financial) contributions to local communities, representatives from these communities emphasized the past damages caused by Southern, principally striving for (official) recognition of the company’s guilt. Hence, compromise-oriented policy instruments such as dialogue tables prove to be ill-suited for dealing with claims where recognition rather than compensation is at stake.