The Curse of Black Gold

Title The Curse of   Black Gold
Director(s) Philippe Levasseur
Date released (year) 2007
Production company Talking Eyes   Media
Length 30 mins
Location Niger Delta
Keywords/tags Oil, mining,   natural resources, environmental degradation
Link to film
Synopsis The Niger Delta is one of the world’s most important   oil producers. But these lucrative reserves have brought little but misery to   the local population. Petroleum leaks from oil wells, polluting water   supplies, contaminating farmland and poisoning residents. Foreign oil workers   retreat behind walled compounds, hiding from the militias who want to take   control of the oil revenues. Bomb attacks, abductions and murders have become   part of daily life.
Reviews/discussion Fifty years ago, oil was discovered in the Niger Delta   region of Nigeria. Today, at 2.1 million barrels per day, Nigeria is the   sixth-largest oil-producing country in the world and a major oil partner of   the United States. Although its oil industry generates millions of dollars in   revenues daily, the average resident of the Niger Delta struggles to survive   on less than $1 per day.

These startling facts are portrayed in Curse of   the Black Gold, a multimedia video produced by Julie Winokur of Talking Eyes Media. The video, which contains hundreds of photographs by Ed Kashi, exposes   the enormous costs and devastating impact of oil exploitation on the region.   The impassioned voices of Nigerian activists and poets describe how the   convergence of government corruption, irresponsible oil-company practices,   and abject poverty has created a militant movement seeking redress.

Photos in the video were culled from Kashi’s   award-winning book Curse of the Black   Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta. The book, edited by Michael Watts, also features text by Nigerian   journalists and human-rights activists.


Links to other resources Watts, M. (ed)   (2008) Curse   of the black gold: 50 years of oil in the Niger Delta. New York:   Powerhouse.


China’s African Takeover

Title China’s African   Takeover
Director(s) Tom Porter, Aidan Hartley
Date released (year) 2007
Production company Channel 4
Length 24 mins
Location Zambia, Congo,
Keywords/tags international   trade, China, mining, natural resources, labour, neoliberalism
Link to film
Synopsis China’s   economic boom is resulting in the biggest scramble for Africa since the end   of European colonialism. Thousands of Chinese workers are now in Central   Africa, buying up copper and cobalt. Reporter Aidan Hartley and producer Tom   Porter begin their journey at a Chinese-owned mining complex. Locals tell   Hartley that Chinese investment is fueling an economic boom in Zambia,   bringing jobs and also skills that they can pick up. But many Zambians also   accuse the Chinese of being so focused on making money out of Africa that   they do not care about the local people. Source:
Reviews/discussion Unreported   World comes from Central Africa, where our demand for Chinese-made goods such   as mobile phones, MP3 players and laptops comes at a terrible human cost.China’s   economic boom is resulting in the biggest scramble for Africa since the end   of European colonialism. Trade between Beijing and Africa has more than   quadrupled since 2000 and hundreds of new companies, many of them partly   owned by the Chinese State, have set up. Thousands of Chinese workers are now   in Central Africa, buying up copper and cobalt.Reporter   Aidan Hartley and producer Tom Porter begin their journey at a Chinese-owned   mining complex. It’s in the heart of Zambia’s copper belt, into which the   Chinese are pouring billions of dollars of investment. Locals tell Hartley   that Chinese investment is fuelling an economic boom in Zambia, bringing jobs   and also skills that they can pick up.

But many   Zambians also accuse the Chinese of being so focused on making money out of   Africa that they do not care about the local people. The team are shown a   cemetery where 46 victims of one of Zambia’s worst industrial accidents – an   explosion at a Chinese-owned factory – are buried. Local residents accuse the   Chinese management of failing to uphold safety standards. Other locals claim   that the factory is responsible for environmental damage, and Hartley finds a   stream heavily polluted by acidic effluent.

From   Zambia, Hartley and Porter travel to Congo, which has been torn apart by a   civil war between armed militias fighting for control of its resources.   Katanga province is one of the world’s richest areas for mineral reserves,   from where Chinese companies are exporting thousands of tonnes of   heterogenite – ore rich in base metals.

In the boom   town of Lubumbashi, the team enters vast open cast mines where countless   thousands of impoverished Congolese toil to earn a survival income. Hartley   and Porter are confronted with an apocalyptic landscape in which many of the   miners appear to be drunk or high on drugs, with fights frequently breaking   out.

Worst of   all, the team discovers that a key aspect of the huge copper and cobalt   mining industry is the exploitation of child labour. Many of the miners have   to hand-dig tunnels into the hillsides, and because the shafts are small they   use children to hack out the ore and shift sacks of rocks. When it rains, the   tunnels are vulnerable to collapse and dozens of miners die every month. The   children are also exposed to radioactivity because this area is close to the   uranium mines that supplied the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Around the   mine, the team find dozens of Chinese brokers exploiting this chaotic   environment by buying-up the ore extract. They react violently when Porter   tries to film them. Local villagers tell Unreported World that although the   Chinese are bringing enterprise, their business practices are making a profit   at a tragic human cost. But, they say, they have no alternative but to trade   with them.


Links to other resources Wenran Jiang (2009). Fuelling the   Dragon: China’s Rise and Its Energy and Resources Extraction in Africa. The China Quarterly,199, pp 585609China Talking Points:

Blood Coltan

Title Blood Coltan
Director(s) Patrick Forestrier
Date   released (year) 2007
Production   company Tac Presse
Length 52 mins
Location Democratic Republic of Congo
Keywords/tags Minerals, mining, natural resources,   environmental justice, violence, DRC
Link to film

Synopsis “A hardhitting   documentary that shows us the appalling price paid in Africa to sate our   obession for mobile phones” Source:

Mobile phones: everyone owns one,   they are indispensable in our modern lives. But what almost no one knows: in   each one of these devices is blood. Because these small marvels of technology   do not work without a metal named Coltan. The main source of this material   lies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is also one of the main   sources for the war there. This film explores how these mobile phones are   funding killings in the Congo and how people with powerful interests are   maintaining this blood trade.


Reviews/discussion There could hardly be   anything more contemporary than a movie about the mobile phones to which we   are all addicted, and the dirty little secret of their manufacture. They all   require the mineral coltan for electronic components, much of which is mined   in a lawless eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose   gangsters, warlords and rogue army units “tax” every aspect of this   grisly industry. Coltan mining and mobile-phone use has effectively financed   murder, intimidation and mass rape as a way of life. Danish director Frank   Poulsen has made a tough investigative film about this, demanding that his   own supplier, Nokia, owns up to how much coltan it is buying from the DRC,   and travels out there to see conditions for himself. The mine turns out to be   a chaotic shanty-town on a mountain honeycombed with unsafe tunnels, and   policed by warring factions of scary, trigger-happy bullies. The mining and   gangsterism have grown up together, dysfunctionally hand in hand. The raw   material is shipped out to Malaysia and elsewhere, smelted into tantalum and   it is at this point that the big corporations buy it, firmly incurious as to   its origin. Nokia is deeply uncomfortable about this subject. Did the saintly   Steve Jobs have anything to say? We talk about conflict diamonds; maybe now   is the time to talk about conflict mobile phones.

Source: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, Thursday 20 October 2011

Links   to other resources

Blood and Chocolate

Title Blood and   Chocolate
Director(s) Evan Williams,   James Brabazon
Date released (year) 2007
Production company Channel 4
Length 24 mins
Location Ivory Coast
Keywords/tags Labour abuses,   agriculture, commodities, civil war, international trade
Link to film,


Synopsis Blood diamonds   may get all the media attention, but as this Unreported World highlights,   there’s a far cheaper commodity bought by millions of Britons every week,   which is fuelling a violent conflict in West Africa: chocolate. Hundreds of   men, women and children have been killed, villages razed to the ground and   thousands forced to move into slum refugee camps. And all because the world   loves chocolate.After four   years of civil war between ethnic groups in the south and north of the Ivory   Coast, which killed more than 2,000 people, there’s supposed to be a   UN-sponsored ceasefire. But reporter Evan Williams and producer James   Brabazon need armed guards as they begin their journey driving through the   west of the country up to the front line. All along the roadside are villages   that have been burned down.

The team   walks into the village of Sada, where every house has been destroyed. The   local militia chief tells them that 200 people used to live here. He claims   that they fled when they were attacked by raiders – northerners from a   neighbouring village.

It’s   immediately clear that the raid was all about control of the village’s cocoa   crop. Ivory Coast provides around 43% of the world’s cocoa, and it provides   more than a third of the country’s entire foreign exchange. Cocoa growers can   make between £500 £1000 a year – an extraordinary amount of money for this   part of the world.

The team   drives on to another village, Zéaglo, just in time to witness a show of   strength by the main southern militia. Their leader, Mao Glofiei , claims to   have ten thousand men under arms. According to the ceasefire his men should   have disarmed. But Unreported World films Mao Glofei distributing a cache of   automatic weapons, while his men sing that ‘the rebels are bad, their mothers   are bad, their fathers are bad, their children are bad and we’ve got to kill   them.’

Driving   down the most dangerous road in the country and deeper into the disputed   areas, the team arrives in the village of Duezone. Villagers say five   thousand people used to live here, but only a handful have dared to return.   One resident, Ferdinand, tells them that attackers burst into his house at   dawn, slashing his father with a machete and killing his brother. He says it   was all about who controlled the cocoa-growing land.

Williams   and Brabazon drive on to a village populated by the so-called northern   immigrants. One of them tells the team that when they originally came to the   area, they were welcomed by the local indigenous people, but as soon as they   started profiting from the land by growing cocoa the locals started demanding   it back. For this reason, he has to fight to protect himself and keep his   land.

A new peace   deal between the two sides is meant to lead to an election later this year.   Under the deal UN forces are already planning to withdraw. But as Unreported   World films combatants on both sides rearming and retraining, localised   attacks over land and cocoa threaten to spiral yet again into a full-blown   confrontation.


Reviews/discussion Producer James Brabazon is no stranger to risky   assignments. But even he, alongside reporter Evan Williams, needed armed   guards to make Blood and Chocolate in ethnically explosive Ivory Coast. The   guards in question are “native” (their description) southern Ivorians and   it’s not possible to travel to the west of the country without them. Despite   the 2003 UN-sponsored peace deal that followed four years of civil war, the   southerners refuse to disarm, claiming that “immigrant” foreigners from the   north pose a constant threat to the south’s land and cocoa. Yes, cocoa – 40   per cent of the world’s cocoa plants are found in this region. Blood diamonds   get the publicity, but the raw ingredient for the millions of chocolate bars   consumed every week is fuelling a conflict increasingly at odds with the   notion of a ceasefire. PWD Source:

Unreported World is a foreign   affairs programme produced by Quicksilver Media Productions and broadcast   by Channel   4 in the United Kingdom. Over the course of its twenty-four series,   reporters have travelled to dangerous locations all over the world in an   attempt to uncover stories usually ignored by the world media.   The first episode of series 24 was broadcast on 2 November, 2012. Source:

(see this link for full list of Unreported World   episodes)

Links to other resources Canadian divisions of chocolate makers face price-fixing accusations, November 28, 2007: trader buys all Europe’s cocoa, by Jonathan Sibun and Harry Wallop, July 17,   2010

The purchase was enough to move the entire global cocoa market, sending the   price to the highest level since 1977, and triggering rumours and intrigue in   the City.

It is unclear which person, or group of traders, was behind the deal, but it   was the largest single cocoa trade for 14 years.

The cocoa beans, which are sitting in warehouses either in The Netherlands,   Hamburg, or closer to home in London, Liverpool or Humberside is equivalent   to the entire supply of the commodity in Europe, and would fill more than   five Titanics. They are worth £658 million.

Analysts said it was very unlikely that a chocolate company, such as Nestle   or Kraft, or even their suppliers, would buy such a huge order in one go and   that is was probable that one or a number of speculators, possibly hedge   funds, had attempted to corner the market. By doing this, they would have   control of the entire supply in Europe, forcing the price yet higher.

Eugen Weinberg, an analyst with Commerzbank, said: “For one buyer it would   likely be a little bit too large. It would be a crazy number. That said, if   you’re cornering the market …”

“If it looks like cornering, feels like cornering and the price difference   between Europe and the US is so large, it probably is cornering.”

“There is some play taking place. No one really knows what is going on.”

Andreas Christiansen, president of the German Cocoa Trade Association, said   the “hefty” price move was “a mirror of what can be done if people control   the physical stock”.

Cocoa prices, which had been on the rise this year, rose 0.7 per cent   yesterday, to £2,732 per metric ton. By contrast, cocoa being traded on the   US exchange fell.

This is the highest price for cocoa in Europe since 1977, and comes after a   series of weak harvests in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the main areas where   the crop is grown. Fears of floods in the Ivory Coast have sent prices even   higher, as speculators have bet on another poor harvest, and a shortage of   supply.

At the same time demand is on the increase, especially as China and India   develop an ever sweeter tooth.

Cocoa prices have more than doubled since 2007, forcing chocolate makers to   raise prices and in some cases to change recipes to use less cocoa.

Laurent Pipitone, senior statistician at the International Cocoa Organisation   in London, said: “In the past two years, all companies have increased   prices.”

There are fears that the extraordinary activity on the commodity markets will   filter down to higher prices on the shop shelves for the nation’s favourite   chocolate bars, even milk chocolate, which has only 25 per cent cocoa   content.

The trade took place on the London International Financial Futures and   Options Exchange (Liffe), a market which trades contracts in commodities such   as corn, wheat, sugar, coffee and cocoa.

Most of these contracts are “options” or “futures” giving   a trader the right to buy these commodities at a certain price at a certain   time in the future. What made yesterday’s trade so unusual was that the   mystery buyer or buyers took physical delivery of the commodity.

The beans will be stored in one of Liffe’s warehouses in Amsterdam, Antwerp,   Bremen, Felixstowe, Hamburg, Humberside, Le Havre, Liverpool, London,   Rotterdam, or Teesside.

There have been mounting worries that speculators have been distorting the   cocoa market in recent weeks, with brokers writing a letter of protest to   Liffe earlier this month.

Barbara Crowther, a spokesman at the Fairtrade Foundation, said that no   farmers in West Africa would benefit from the higher prices. She said:   “This speculation only serves to increase volatility and uncertainty.   Part of the problems in rent years have been the lack of investment in   improving cocoa farms. But the farmers have already been paid a set price –   none of this money will filter down to them.”

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