Mineral production, territory, and ethnic rebellion: The role of rebel constituencies
Several possible relationships between natural resources and civil conflict have been hypothesized and tested in the literature. The impact of resources on conflict should depend on the circumstances of the group that (potential) rebels see themselves as representing and depend upon for support. While 'lootable' resources such as alluvial diamonds have been shown to increase the likelihood of insurgency, among territorially concentrated ethnic groups looting by rebels recruiting from the group is counterproductive because it imposes negative externalities on the rebel constituency. However, local mineral abundance could encourage rebellion indirectly, by promoting the development of secessionist objectives, since autonomy or independence would allow the rebel constituency to enjoy a larger share of the benefits flowing from mineral revenues. On the other hand, mineral abundance could encourage the government to exercise greater surveillance and control over potentially restive minority populations. On balance, then, mineral abundance should affect ethnoregional conflict primarily by encouraging ethnic rebels to adopt limited, territorial-autonomy objectives as opposed to governmental objectives. This hypothesis is tested with a new, global dataset of substate mineral production. Local mineral resource abundance is indeed negatively associated with governmental conflict among ethnoregional groups and positively related to secessionist or territorial conflict. Moreover, it is the total value of mineral production that matters, not specific types of minerals such as oil or diamonds. The net effect of mineral abundance on the total risk of intrastate conflict onset among ethnoregions is essentially zero.