In 2004, I started anthropological research among Brazilian migrants in Suriname, soon to find out that the main attraction of the country were the gold deposits in the Guiana Shield. This was the start of a new line of research to be developed, as small-scale gold mining became the central focus of my investigation. Since 2006 I conducted extensive anthropological fieldwork in Antino and Benzdorp mining sites in the Southeast of Suriname and have made many short trips to other mining areas in the country.
The gold rush in Suriname involves thousands of Brazilians, local indigenous and maroon people, and Surinamese entrepreneurs from the city. Periodically foreign and large capital owning companies are also entering. In this research the dynamics of the interplay between all the actors engaged in the gold prospecting and extraction is analysed from several perspectives, such as (1) the construction of prosperity, fortune, opportunity, and security, (2) localization of riches and land rights in the context of (seasonal) migration, national borders and regional integration, (3) notions of individuality and community in the organization of live in the gold fields (basic stability, trust, absence of state power, minimal features of the – temporal – society).
Over the years my work with gold mining developed in several directions. The focus on Brazilian migrant miners was broadened to include maroon miners and the interaction between local maroon and indigenous populations, who are sometimes miners themselves, and the migrant miners. The arrival of urban businessmen and foreign junior exploration companies led to new social dynamics in the field. And the attempts of the national authorities to control the informal economy in the interior also brought other research questions to be addressed.