ESR 11:
Exploring telecouplings between mining and land change in Africa

Home Institution: Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
Principal Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Jonas Nielsen
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Esteve Corbera
Application date: 16/10/2017-24/11/2017
Starting date: 01/07/2018 or earlier
Duration: 3 years


Understanding how mining and in particular so-called conflict-free mining emphasizing good working conditions and low environmental impacts affect land-use is the topic of this PhD position. Such sustainability measures often come from outside the region in which mining takes place embedding places of mining in global flows of discourses, consumer demands, certification schemes, and materials.

Against this background, this ESR position will:

  • Use fieldwork research to explore how sustainable measures by mining companies affect smallholders living in the vicinity of, or working in such mines, mainly, but not necessarily exclusively, in Tanzania. The student is expected to:
  • Explore and to provide an assessment of the potential spill-over land-use effects of such mines (e.g. displacements of unsustainable mining) via a focus on the networks local actors involved in sustainable mining (miners, NGOs, policy makers, company representatives) engage in.
  • Finally, the project is expected to contribute to discussions on how to balance interests between sustainable mining, and local livelihoods and land-use practices.

In doing so, the ESR position will create a basic understanding of telecouplings activated through mining, develop and refine qualitative methods linking place-based changes with global flows, document how sustainable mining impact local livelihoods, and gain insights into how organizations concerned about sustainable mining can avoid unwanted outcomes and spill-over effects. The ESR will be jointly supervised by Profs. Jonas Nielsen (Geography Department & IRI THESys, HU Berlin, Germany) and Esteve Corbera (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain). Two secondments will take place at COWI, Tanzania, and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.


Humboldt University is one of Germany’s leading research universities with around 5,000 employees and 35,000 students. The Geography Department is consistently among Germany’s top Geography Departments and is a key research hub for sustainability science, with research foci on land use change, climate change, and urban studies. The Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys) is a flagship activity in the institutional strategy of Humboldt University. As an inter-faculty institute, it develops long-term collaborative research concepts and projects with a focus on sustainability and ongoing transformations of human-environment systems.

We seek

A candidate having a MA/MSc (or the equivalent degree), in Geography, Social Anthropology, Environmental Science or related fields. We expect a strong interest in land system science and sustainability problems. Experience with qualitative research is mandatory. The willingness to travel to the Global South is mandatory. Research experience in Sub Saharan Africa is an asset.


Prof Dr Jonas Nielsen


Please include the reference number DR/128/17 in the content line of your motivation letter.

Do you consider applying?

In any case please check the eligibility criteria in the first place.

To submit your application, please fill in the requested data in the online application form, upload your application file and submit your application.

Download and carefully read the Guide for Applicants and the ITN Programme’s information note for all specific information on the application and selection procedure.