The academic journal The Extractive Industries and Society has published an article by our associate researcher Dr. Eric Cezne together with Dr. Ana Saggioro Garcia from the Institute of International Relations, PUC-Rio, Brazil. The article “The rise and fall of Brazilian extractivism in Africa: Taking stock of Vale’s mining operations on the continent (2004-2022)” deals with the presence of the Brazilian mining company Vale in Africa and sheds light on the company’s involvement from its arrival to its withdrawal.
At the turn of the millennium, the rise of Southern powers and their firms was filled with a sense of positive change and possibility. The advent of the Brazilian mining giant, Vale S.A., in Africa tellingly captured such ideals and ambitions. Spanning activities from the continent’s Atlantic to Indian coasts, Vale went on to become Brazil’s largest-ever corporate presence in Africa. Yet, over the years, caught up in complex challenges, business underperformances, and socio-environmental controversies, Vale’s operations on the continent have been brought to a halt after nearly two decades (2004–2022). This Special Section reflects on the full cycle (political, environmental, economic, and social) of Vale in Africa, where the expansion of extractive promises and projects by a major Southern multinational turned out to be not so tractable as initially envisioned. This introductory article sets the scene for the Special Section. It provides a background to Vale, offers an overview of its presence in Africa, revisits how its engagement on the continent has been discussed in the literature, and accounts for how this Special Section furthers existing debates. It then describes the empirical and theoretical contributions to emerge from the six articles that make up the collection.