Ambiguous Matter

The Life of Mine Waste


  • Anatolijs Venovcevs UiT: The Arctic University of Norway



waste, heritage, commodity, resource extraction, iron, industrial archaeology


This paper explores mine waste that originates from resource extraction by specifically focusing on waste rock, tailings, dust and material culture from the resource extraction industry. By drawing on examples from fieldwork, archives, local media commentary and limited interviews from two iron-mining regions in Arctic Norway and sub-Arctic Canada, this paper follows mine waste as it routinely transgresses attempts to be managed. Mine waste spills out of its prescribed sinks, it oscillates between being considered waste to heritage to potentially valuable commodity, and it blurs the boundaries between spaces dedicated for mining and for non-mining. In following these trends, the paper calls for attentiveness to the ambiguous materiality of mine waste and how heterogeneity and excess circumscribe attempts at easy characterisation and management of the ubiquitous wastes that come to dominate mining regions. As such, archaeological approaches to studying mine waste can illustrate how mine waste becomes the default, lived-with condition of life in regions dominated by ongoing mining operations.


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How to Cite

Venovcevs, A. (2022). Ambiguous Matter: The Life of Mine Waste. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 9(1), 39–63.



Research Article

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