Tag Archives: extractive industries

The Game-Changers: oil, gas and geothermal

image from UNESCO

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has decided to degazette parts of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites to allow for oil drilling. Environmentalists have reacted sharply to the decision to open up Virunga and Salonga national parks – a move that is likely to jeopardise a regional treaty on the protection of Africa’s most biodiverse wildlife habitat and the endangered mountain gorilla…The two national parks are home to mountain gorillas, bonobos and other rare species. Salonga covers 33 350 km2 (3,350,000 ha)of the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest rainforest, and contains bonobos, forest elephants, dwarf chimpanzees and Congo peacocks….

On 7 April, 2018, a council of ministers from the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda agreed to ratify the Treaty on the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Development. The inaugural ministerial meeting set the deadline for September 2018 to finalise the national processes needed to ratify the treaty.

The Virunga National Park (790,000 ha, 7 900 km2)is part of the 13 800 km2 (1 3800 00 ha) Greater Virunga Landscape, which straddles the eastern DRC, north-western Rwanda and south-western Uganda.  The area boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Virunga, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It also boasts a Ramsar Site (Lake George and Lake Edward) and a Man and Biosphere Reserve (in Queen Elizabeth National Park). It is the most species-rich landscape in the Albertine Rift – home to more vertebrate species and more endemic and endangered species than any other region in Africa.

According to the Greater Virunga Landscape 2016 annual report, the number of elephant carcasses recorded in 2016 was half the yearly average for the preceding five years. The report also mentions a high rate of prosecution and seizures. It cites a case study on Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park where 282 suspects involved in poaching were prosecuted, with over 230 sentenced….The GVTC has also helped to ease tensions between the countries by providing a platform where their military forces can collaborate in a transparent way. ..

Armed groups have reportedly killed more than 130 rangers in the park since 1996. Militias often kill animals such as elephants, hippos and buffaloes in the park for both meat and ivory. Wildlife products are then trafficked from the DRC through Uganda or Rwanda. The profits fund the armed groups’ operations.

Over 80% of the Greater Virunga Landscape is covered by oil concessions and this makes it a target for state resource exploitation purely for economic gain.

2015: Until recently, in GVL, extraction of highly valued minerals such as gold and coltan, were largely artisanal. The recent discovery of oil, gas and geothermal potential, however, is a game-changer. Countries are now moving ahead in the exploration and production of oil and gas, which if not properly managed, is likely to result in major negative environmental (and social) changes. Extractive industries are managed under each GVL partner state policy guidelines and legislation. Concessions for these industries cover the whole of the GVL, including the World Heritage Sites as well as national protected areas . Since 2006, Uganda discovered commercial quantities of oil in the Albertine Graben and production in Murchison will begin within the next few years. The effect of the extractive industries, similar to and contributing to that of the increase in urbanization is the increased demand for bush meat, timber and fuel wood from the GVL.

Excertps from Duncan E Omondi Gumba, DRC prioritises oil over conservation, ISS Africa,  July 11, 2018//GREATER VIRUNGA LANDSCAPE


Mining Peru: the right to consultation and environmental protection

The first law signed by Mr Humala [Peru’s President] required the government to consult with local communities before approving extractive projects. This was followed by measures to increase the total tax-take from mining by about $1 billion a year. His popularity soared. A year later, conflicts are rising again: the ombudsman’s office reports 149 disputes involving extractive industries. The government has declared a state of emergency in one area, and sent troops to another. Eight protesters have been killed by the police since March. Mr Humala’s approval rating is down to 45%, according to Ipsos-Apoyo, a polling firm.

The fiercest fight involves Minas Conga, a $4.8 billion gold and copper project in Cajamarca, in the north, by Newmont, an American firm, and Peru’s Buenaventura. This would have turned several Andean lakes into reservoirs or tailings ponds. That alarmed peasant communities. After protests flared, Mr Humala promised to invest $2 billion in Cajamarca and ordered a fresh environmental study. This recommended changes, to save two lakes. But Gregorio Santos, Cajamarca’s regional president, has vowed to stop Conga. He may get his way. Newmont has scaled back its investment in Peru this year, and said that Conga will no longer start in 2014, as planned, but perhaps in 2017. Three other projects in the same area, with total investment of $5 billion, are also in jeopardy.

Last month two people were killed and buildings set alight in Espinar, in the southern highlands, in a protest against Xstrata, an Anglo-Swiss company that owns a copper mine at Tintaya and is building another nearby. The government arrested the mayor, who led the protests. He wants Xstrata to raise its contribution to a social fund from 3% to 30% of pre-tax profits. When that gained little support in other parts of the country, he began to complain of pollution. But a dozen studies since 2005 have found the presence of heavy metals in water to be within legal limits.

Mining investment, forecast at over $50 billion in the next five years, is starting to fall. A score of giant projects account for over 85% of the planned spending. Of these, 11 face social conflicts, according to a note by Canada’s Scotiabank. Five legislators have left Mr Humala’s party over the protests, weakening the government in Congress. The president seems to have few ideas as to how to prevent disputes, or how to negotiate when they do break out. Having spent years posing as the protesters’ champion, Mr Humala is now reaping the bitter harvest of dashed expectations

Mining in Peru: Dashed expectations, Economist,June 23, 2012, at 42