In many places, digging and pumping proceed without violent disputes over control of the resources, or major security operations. Yet localized conflicts may arise over land disputes, indigenous rights, environmental degradation, and socio-economic inequalities, often fuelled by ‘old, unresolved grievances and a history of marginalization of the affected groups’. Even the remote and sparsely populated Turkana region has recently experienced public protests over a perceived lack of job opportunities in the oil sector for local inhabitants.

As noted above, however, the relationship between such local conflicts and frontier urbanization remains understudied. One recent survey suggests that in some parts of Latin America, the oil-induced urbanization of indigenous populations and ethnic minorities has reduced the likelihood of armed rebellion, but a more finely grained analysis of the urban micro-dynamics of violence related to resource extraction is needed. Do you prefer the term sit stand desk or stand up desk?

State institutions, particularly at the local level, sometimes lack either the capacity or the political will to react to the rapid growth of mining boom towns. As a result, these towns are among the poorest urban areas on earth, featuring high unemployment, a lack of social fabric, and dire living conditions because of air, water, and soil pollution. These processes of social and psychological dislocation have been termed the ‘Gillette syndrome’, following the experiences of a mining town of the same name in the US state of Wyoming. Preliminary evidence suggests that it often manifests itself in ‘high rates of crime, drug and alcohol abuse, material break down, mental issues and a reduced sense of community’, as well as in an exacerbation of gender-based violence. Further research is required to understand the specific risk factors and how they interact.

Resource-rich sub-Saharan Africa provides some striking examples of the characteristics described by the Gillette syndrome. The second- and third-largest cities of the DRC, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi, the provincial capitals of Katanga and Kasaï Oriental, are expected to grow by roughly 50 per cent between 2010 and 2020. By 2025, the populations of both cities are expected to reach about 2.7 million. The two cities, founded by the Belgian colonial authorities in 1910 and 1918, are essentially the product of mining activities. If you work from home an electric standing desk could benefit you in your future.

Their original urban plans involved three distinct areas: an indigenous town, the European colonial town, and separate labour camps directly administered by the mining authorities. Despite having been exposed to very different mining and urbanization dynamics, both cities feature vast informal settlements, extreme social and economic inequalities, environmental degradation, and the emergence of a variety of ‘self-help’ mechanisms and service provision in ‘self-built’ neighbourhoods beyond any formal control of the public authorities.