Restructuring of primary industries: Technology, labor, and corporate strategy and control in the Arizona copper industry

Breandan O'Huallachain, Richard A. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Industrial restructuring in the primary sector highlights the continued exploitation of economies of scale, vertical integration, and oligopolistic competition. A few large vertically integrated firms wield power and control over material sources and production facilities. Restructuring of the copper industry in Arizona illustrates the interaction of changing corporate strategies and shifting market structures in primary production. A weakening of the global copper oligopoly disrupted supply/demand adjustment mechanisms following a wave of nationalizations of copper producing properties in South America and Africa in the early 1970s. The resultant depression in prices forced firms in Arizona to restructure. Changes in technological processes and labor relations eliminated large numbers of jobs, redefined work processes, crushed union vigor, revitalized labor productivity, and substantially lessened production costs. Firms that survived the reorganization held specialized core skills in copper that compelled and enabled them to restore capital accumulation. They consolidated assets and intensified vertical integration. A long-term strategic objective of international mining companies, including Arizona's copper firms, is to restore the structure of the global copper oligopoly through new investments in Chile and Peru. Realizing this goal is possible due to the reassertion of capitalistic production principles throughout Latin America and the reinvigoration of international mining firms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-215
Number of pages20
JournalEconomic Geography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1996


  • Arizona
  • Copper
  • Corporate strategy
  • Industrial restructuring
  • Labor productivity
  • Oligopoly
  • Vertical integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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