|Title||Using Africa’s Resources for Development – Part 1|
|Date released (year)||2012|
|Production company||Uongozi Institute|
|Keywords/tags||Oil, mining, natural resources, governance|
|Link to film||http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLSBXye-Ngs
|Synopsis||Prof. Paul Collier advises how Africa should benefit from mineral, oil and gas extraction.
The current high prices for minerals, oil and gas offer an opportunity for resource-rich countries in Africa to transform their economies and thereby the lives of its people. Yet this ‘golden opportunity’ can be ruined by corruption, environmental degradation and mismanagement, with benefits limited to a lucky few.
What policies do governments need to have in place for the responsible exploitation of minerals, oil and gas? How can African economies prepare themselves to manage new found wealth? How can governments invest and save for future generations? How should exploration rights be valued and extraction companies taxed?
Professor Paul Collier explained his strategy for stimulating economic growth in developing countries through selling natural resources such as minerals, oil and gas at an event hosted in Tanzania by UONGOZI Institute on 20 February 2012
|Reviews/discussion||The Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development, commonly known as UONGOZI Institute, offers training, discussions and resources on leadership, executive management and strategic thinking to leaders in Africa engaged in sustainable development.
“Uongozi” means leadership in Kiswahili, and inspiring and strengthening leadership is the core purpose of our organisation. Based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, UONGOZI Institute is dedicated to supporting African leaders to attain sustainable development for their nations and for Africa
We seek to inspire leaders and promote the recognition of the important role of leadership in sustainable development. We believe that:
Leadership is the key to achieving sustainable development
The development of a leader requires specialised grooming
An African model of leadership is vital for achieving the most favourable development outcomes for Africa.
The Institute is an independent government agency established by the Government of Tanzania and supported by the government of Finland.
A prosperous and equitable Africa through effective leadership for sustainable development.
To inspire and equip African leaders to realise their personal and collective potential to deliver sustainable solutions for African citizens.
BRICS bloc’s rising ‘sub-imperialism’
Is this the latest threat to Africa?
By Patrick Bond
2012-11-29, Issue 608
Like Berlin in 1884-85, the BRICS Durban summit is expected to carve up Africa more efficiently, unburdened – now as then – by what will be derided as ‘Western’ concerns about democracy and human rights.
The heads of state of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) network of governments are coming to Durban, South Africa, in four months, meeting on March 26-27 at the International Convention Centre (ICC), Africa’s largest venue. Given their recent performance, it is reasonable to expect another “1%” summit, wreaking socioeconomic and ecological havoc. And that means it is time for the first BRICS countersummit, to critique top-down “sub-imperialist” bloc formation, and to offer bottom-up alternatives.
After all, we have had some bad experiences at the Durban ICC.
In 2001, in spite of demands by 10,000 protesters, the United Nations World Conference Against Racism refused to grapple with reparations for slavery and colonialism or with apartheid-Israel’s racism against Palestinians (hence Tel Aviv’s current ethnic cleansing of Gaza goes unpunished).
The African Union got off to a bad start here, with its 2002 launch, due to reliance on the neoliberal New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) promoted by Pretoria.
The 2003 World Economic Forum’s African regional meeting hastened governments’ supplication to multinational corporate interests in spite of protests.
In 2011, Durban’s UN COP17 climate summit – better known as the ‘Conference of Polluters’ – featured Washington’s sabotage, with no new emissions cuts and an attempted revival of the non-solution called ‘carbon trading’, also called ‘the privatisation of the air’.
Like Berlin in 1884-85, the BRICS Durban summit is expected to carve up Africa more efficiently, unburdened – now as then – by what will be derided as “Western” concerns about democracy and human rights. Reading between the lines, its resolutions will:
– support favoured corporations’ extraction and land-grab strategies;
– worsen Africa’s retail-driven deindustrialisation (South Africa’s Shoprite and Makro – soon to be run by Walmart – are already notorious in many capital cities for importing even simple products that could be supplied locally);
– revive failed projects such as Nepad; and
– confirm the financing of both land grabbing and the extension of neocolonial infrastructure through a new ‘BRICS Development Bank’, likely to be based just north of Johannesburg where the Development Bank of Southern Africa already does so much damage following Washington’s script.
The question is whether in exchange for the Durban summit amplifying such destructive tendencies, which appears certain, can those few of Africa’s elites who may be invited leverage any greater influence in world economic management via the BRICS? With South Africa’s finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s regular critiques of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), there is certainly potential for BRICS to “talk left” about the global-governance democracy deficit.
But watch the ‘walk right’ carefully. In the vote for World Bank president earlier this year, for example, Pretoria’s choice was hard-core Washington ideologue Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian finance minister who with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde catalysed the Occupy movement’s near revolution in January, with a removal of petrol subsidies. Brasilia chose the moderate economist Jose Antonio Ocampo and Moscow backed Washington’s choice: Jim Yong Kim.
This was a repeat of the prior year’s fiasco in the race for IMF managing director, won by Lagarde in spite of ongoing corruption investigations against her by French courts, because the Third World was divided and conquered. BRICS appeared in both cases as incompetent, unable to even agree on a sole candidate, much less win their case in Washington.
Yet in July, BRICS treasuries sent US$100 billion in new capital to the IMF, which was seeking new systems of bail-out for banks exposed in Europe. South Africa’s contribution was only $2 billion, a huge sum for Gordhan to muster against local trade union opposition. Explaining the South African contribution – initially he said it would be only one tenth as large – Gordhan told Moneyweb last year that it was on condition that the IMF became more “nasty” [sic] to desperate European borrowers, as if the Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish poor and working people were not suffering enough.
And the result of this BRICS intervention is that China gains IMF voting power, but Africa actually loses a substantial fraction of its share. Even Gordhan admitted at last month’s Tokyo meeting of the IMF and world Bank that it is likely “the vast majority of emerging and developing countries will lose quota shares – an outcome that will perpetuate the democratic deficit.” And given “the crisis of legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of the IMF”, it “is simply untenable” that Africa only has two seats for its 45 member countries.
Likewise, South Africa’s role in Africa has been “nasty”, as confirmed when Nepad was deemed “philosophically spot on” by lead US State Department Africa official Walter Kansteiner in 2003, and foisted privatisation of even basic services on the continent. In a telling incident this year, the Johannesburg parastatal firm Rand Water was forced to leave Ghana after failing – with a Dutch for-profit partner (Aqua Vitens) – to improve Accra’s water supply, as also happened in Maputo, Mozambique, (Saur from Paris) and Dar es Salaam (Biwater from London) in Tanzania.
As a matter of principle, BRICS appears hell bent on promoting the further commodification of life, at a time when the greatest victory won by ordinary Africans in the last decade is under attack: the winning of the Treatment Action Campaign’s demand for affordable access to AIDS medicines, via India’s cheap generic versions of drugs. A decade ago, they cost $10,000 per person per year and only a tiny fraction of desperate people received the medicines. Now, more than 1.5 million South Africans – and millions more in the rest of Africa – get treatment, thus raising the South Africa’s average life expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 60 today, according to reliable statistics released this month.
However, in recent months, Obama has put an intense squeeze on India to cut back on generic medicine R&D and production, as well as making deep cuts in his own government’s aid commitment to fund African healthcare. In Durban, the city that is home to the most HIV+ people in the world, Obama’s move resulted in this year’s closure of AIDS public treatment centres at three crucial sites. One was the city’s McCord Hospital, which ironically was a long-standing ally of the NGO Partners in Health, whose cofounder was Obama’s pick for World Bank president, Jim Kim.
|Links to other resources||Thomas Pakenham (1992) The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912. See: http://www.amazon.com/Scramble-Africa-Conquest-Continent-1876-1912/dp/0380719991
The Economist (2011) Africa’s natural resources: Spread the wealth: http://www.economist.com/node/18114495
|Title||Conflict Minerals Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo|
|Date released (year)||2011|
|Keywords/tags||Minerals, mining, civil war, violence|
|Link to film||http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYqrflGpTRE
|Synopsis||The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world and thanks to an insanely complicated mix of politics, armed conflict, and corruption… it’s also one of the most under-reported. It also happens to be home to a nondescript black rock known as Coltan… a vital ingredient in the production of nearly every cell phone and computer on the planet. Without Coltan, our technology-driven lives would come to a screeching halt, and Congo has 80% of the world’s supply. Since the mid nineteen-nineties, armed groups have used these minerals to fund a series of fantastically complicated and horrifically violent wars.
Vice founder Suroosh Alvi travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo and makes one of the most grueling treks of his life to see first-hand where this so-called “conflict mineral” comes from and to meet some of the rebels involved in the seemingly never-ending conflict in Eastern Congo.
|Reviews/discussion||From the BBC: The Human Cost of Coltan Mining
It was midnight when Elise and her husband were woken by armed men in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Soldiers of DR Congo’s National Army burst into their shack, sent the husband into another room, and then raped the mother of five at gunpoint.
“They put their guns on my chest and said: ‘Don’t talk, don’t cry, don’t complain’… then they started to rape me,” she said.
The perpetrators were not the feared militia of the FDLR, who are currently the focus of a major military operation in South Kivu.
They were from the FARDC – the National Army that now controls this area in eastern DR Congo.
It is an area carpeted with minerals such as coltan and cassiterite, which are used in the production of consumer durables and gadgets sold in the rich world.
But people are now beginning to ask: what is the human cost of a mobile phone?
Scarred for life
In Shabunda territory, where Elise was attacked, there have been 112 rapes reported since April, when the military operation started.
These official figures are almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg, because most sexual crimes go unreported here.
Since 2006 there have been 2,883 recorded rapes in the Shabunda territory.
Many of the women have not only been sexually violated but physically scarred for life.
And Shabunda is just one territory out of eight in the province of South Kivu – a tiny pin-prick in this vast country.
“Sexual attacks peak when there’s fighting,” said Shabunda-based human rights activist Papy Bwalinga Kashama.
“The reason the military and militia are fighting is to control the mines,” he said.
Civilians get caught in the middle. Control the men with guns who guard and earn tax from the mines, he argued, and you reduce the terrible violations endured by women.
It may sound simplistic, but he has a point.
In the mining area of Nyabembe, rusting pieces of mining machinery poke out from a thick layer of grass.
They reflect a time in the mid-1970s, when commercial mining was carried out in this area – a two-and-a-half hour motorbike ride from the town of Lulingu.
Five years of civil war, followed by protracted skirmishes with the militia, saw those operations move out and freelance miners move in.
These men are now exposed to predatory militias and also the military who demand a cut from what they dig.
When they are not exacting local taxes, the gunmen move into the village and terrify the local population – stealing, killing and raping.
“They take what they want, even our women, and there is nothing we can do about it,” sighed Simon, a young teacher who has swapped his school books for a shovel, because it is the only way to make a living.
Blood on their hands?
Global electronics and metals giants now face uncomfortable questions: Are they inadvertently fuelling the conflict in eastern DR Congo? Are they buttressing a market by sourcing supplies from militarised zones (a practice that is not illegal but ethically questionable)?
“There is nowhere and no-one we won’t buy from,” said Masumbuko Moari, who represents middlemen who supply to the big exporters.
He laughed when I suggested they might have blood on their hands as a result of buying from the men with guns.
“That’s a political issue,” he said, and our conversation ended.
With mining being the only game in town, radical change is bound to be resisted.
And that is the argument that international purchasers of minerals use, to justify their trade: so many jobs depend on it.
During a recent visit to South Kivu, DR Congo’s Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito admitted to the BBC that there was a genuine problem about militarised mining.
“We want people and companies to be able to work in good conditions,” he said. “Once the environment improves, the army won’t be in a position to exploit the mines.
“It’s an abnormal situation at the moment because the government doesn’t have full control.”
The Congolese government faces international pressure to address military exploitation of DR Congo’s mines.
It claims to control 80% of the mines but if you are prepared to ride by motorbike for a few hours, or trek through the forests on foot, it is not hard to find mines in the hands of men with guns.
Under the wire
During US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to the country, grand statements were made to get the military out of the mines, but change requires clear political will.
“We have to destroy the commercial circus of the mines, by reasserting the control of the state,” said Mabolia Yenga, a mines trouble-shooter who advises DR Congo’s ministry of mines.
Commercialising the mining sector is not a magic bullet, but it might be a start if the big operators are closely watched.
Mr Yenga believes that for minerals like coltan and cassiterite, a process of certification to ensure the mining does not fund violence – such as with the Kimberley process for diamonds – is long overdue.
But such a process would require input from DR Congo’s neighbours, which act as transit points for illicit exports.
Neighbours such as Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda have long been accused of benefiting from DR Congo’s mines, operating “under the wire” and gaining from the country’s instability.
The Congolese government wants to invite mining companies back in and use the tax revenues from mining to rebuild this shattered country.
It is a hard message to sell to a population which has seen virtually no infrastructural growth from its mineral riches – simply war.
But it may be a small step to making mining more transparent in DR Congo. It may also help to ensure that some of the 1.8bn mobile phones in the world are a little “cleaner”.
An excellent book on this topic:
Michael Nest, 2011, Coltan. Wiley Press. http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745649313
A decade ago no one except geologists had heard of tantalum or ‘coltan’ – an obscure mineral that is an essential ingredient in mobile phones and laptops. Then, in 2000, reports began to leak out of Congo: of mines deep in the jungle where coltan was extracted in brutal conditions watched over by warlords. The United Nations sent a team to investigate, and its exposé of the relationship between violence and the exploitation of coltan and other natural resources contributed to a re-examination of scholarship on the motivations and strategies of armed groups.
The politics of coltan encompass rebel militias, transnational corporations, determined activists, Hollywood celebrities, the rise of China, and the latest iGadget. Drawing on Congolese and activist voices, Nest analyses the two issues that define coltan politics: the relationship between coltan and violence in the Congo, and contestation between activists and corporations to reshape the global tantalum supply chain. The way production and trade of coltan is organised creates opportunities for armed groups, but the Congo wars are not solely, or even primarily, about coltan or minerals generally. Nest argues the political significance of coltan lies not in its causal link to violence, but in activists’ skillful use of mobile phones as a symbol of how ordinary people and transnational corporations far from Africa are implicated in Congo’s coltan industry and therefore its conflict. Nest examines the challenges coltan initiatives face in an activist ‘marketplace’ crowded with competing justice issues, and identifies lessons from coltan initiatives for the geopolitics of global resources more generally.
|Links to other resources||Dena Montague (2002) Stolen Goods: Coltan and Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. SAIS Review 22.1 (2002) 103-118 [Access article in PDF]
Click here to help: http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/Watch more VICE documentaries here: http://bit.ly/VICE-Presents
See Blood Coltan:https://ejoltdocumentaries.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/blood-coltan/
|Title||BBC’s Welcome to Lagos|
|Date released (year)||2010|
|Keywords/tags||Toxic waste, poverty, violence|
|Link to film||http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c
|Synopsis||First 10 minutes of the Part 1 of the documentary.
Three part observational documentary series which explores life at the sharp end of one of the most extreme urban environments in the world: Lagos, Nigeria
|Reviews/discussion||Economy: Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer; more than half of its people live in poverty(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13949550)
From the program editor’s blog:
First stop was the city’s main dump site, Olusosun. This definitely isn’t on the tourist trail of Lagos, but then Lagos doesn’t have much of a tourist industry at the moment. Some 5,000 people work on the dump, and we were immediately struck by how organised and efficient everything was.
As well as all the scavengers working behind the dump trucks, grabbing anything and everything they could to re-sell to the re-processing factories, there were shops, bars, restaurants, a mosque, a barbers, and even a cinema.
The longer we hung out on the dump (it very soon became one of our favourite places to film, because the people were all so friendly there) the more astonishing it became. It turned out that the scavengers even had their own form of democratically elected chairman, who sorted out any arguments or disagreements.
The dump became symbolic of everything we were trying to achieve in the films. It looks at first sight like a rough, lawless, dangerous place, and most people in this country will be horrified to see people working there.
But in actual fact, through the eyes of the people who actually DO work there, it’s a well-organised place where there’s good money to be earned. Decent, honest people choose to work there, preferring a life of grime to a life of crime. Some of them are university graduates.
They are proud of the fact that they earn an honest living, and are making a better life for themselves and their families through sheer determination and hard work.
We realised the scavengers were people to be admired rather than pitied, and it changed our whole perspective on the place. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, so why should we feel sorry for them? We decided that the films should celebrate their resourcefulness, and challenge our audience’s views of what poverty is.
After the dump we went to Makoko, an extraordinary floating slum, where everyone travels round in boats. Some people call it Lagos’s version of Venice.
There’s 100,000 people living on houses built on stilts, and after a week or so of drifting around in boats, stopping at people’s houses and talking to them, we stumbled across Mr Chubbey, who went on to become the star of programme two.
He has 18 children to look after, and is always on the look out for some scheme or another which will help him make more money. He’s like a character from Only Fools And Horses, buying selling, wheeling and dealing, doing dodgy deals and getting by on his charm and his luck. All that’s missing is the camel skin coat.
The last film is set on a beach right in the heart of the swankiest part of town. It sounds idyllic – white sands, clear blue Atlantic waters, baking hot sunny days – and in many ways it is.
But it is also home to 1,000 or so squatters, who have built homes on the sand because they have nowhere else to go. After a couple of trips, walking along the sands, explaining what we were doing to the inquisitive children, we met Esther, a sparky, intelligent, beautiful young woman who had been staying on the beach for the last six years.
She lived with her husband Segun in a little house which they had built themselves out of scrap wood, cardboard and old tarpaulins. It probably cost them about £80.
But when Esther and her husband started to have problems in their marriage, and it looked like they were going to split up, they used to have terrible arguments about who was going to get the house – every bit as vicious as they would be if they were living in a mansion in Beverley Hills.
We realised then that all our characters, wherever they lived, however extreme their working environment, went through all of the same things which we do in the West – love, heartbreak, marriages, births, deaths etc. It’s just that they live on a different scale to us, in the slums of the fastest growing city in the world, and with no money. This forces them to be more resourceful, energetic, and optimistic than most people in the West.
And yes, they may be terribly poor, but that doesn’t stop them being human and, if the films have succeeded, then I hope they’ve succeeded in showing that.
|Links to other resources||Watts, M. (ed) (2008) Curse of the black gold: 50 years of oil in the Niger Delta. New York: Powerhouse.
The Curse of Black Gold film
|Title||We Say No to Fracking – Voices from the Karoo|
|Date released (year)||2012|
|Production company||EcoDoc Africa|
|Keywords/tags||Education, environmentalism, fracking, protest|
|Link to film||http://youtu.be/JZ6cOlTrLN4
|Synopsis||Saturday 28 July 2012 saw a gathering of communities, environmentalists, scientists, children, bikers etc. in Nieu-Bethesda to raise awareness that the people of South Africa are saying NO to fracking. The Rally was organised locally by Mikey Wentworth with support from Climate Justice Campaign and Earthlife Africa Cape Town.
This video was filmed and edited by Liane Greeff of EcoDoc Africa, and produced for EJOLT-CCS. EJOLT is a large collaborative project bringing science and society together to catalogue ecological distribution conflicts and to work towards confronting environmental injustice. EcoDoc Africa is taking the camera to the conflicts and building and sharing a video archive of people’s protests against ecocide on earth.
|Reviews/discussion||What is Fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer by a pressurized fluid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, commonly known as fracing, fraccing, or fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. This type of fracturing creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations.
A Pro-fracking argument:
Fracking it in South Africa: an argument for shale gas production in the Karoo – By John Schellhase, November 15, 2012
South Africa is in the midst of a heated energy debate. Africa’s wealthiest nation sits on top of one of the world’s largest shale gas reserves. While the government has lifted its moratorium on shale gas exploration, the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique, ‘fracking’, is still restricted as the country weighs environmental risks against opportunities for economic development. Given the clear economic opportunities and the chance to diversify away from coal, government officials should continue their deliberate, but steady progress toward completely removing the ban on fracking in South Africa.
In a study of 32 countries, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that South Africa has the 5th largest reserves of potentially recoverable shale gas. At 485 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the shale reserves in South Africa surpass those of Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Poland, where Prime Minister Donald Tusk has called natural gas his country’s “great chance,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Fracking is a controversial technique. In order to extract gas from shale formations, energy companies drill thousands of meters below ground, then drill horizontally into a shale formation. The rig operators pump water and a mixture of chemicals into the shale at high pressures, fracturing rock formations and allowing gas to flow. Fracking opponents worry that the chemicals involved in the process will contaminate water supplies, threatening both human communities and natural ecosystems. Proponents, such as Ben Grumbles, president of the non-for-profit Clean Water America Alliance, disagree. Grumbles has written, “Hydraulic fracturing can be ‘safe’ when done in the right place, on the right scale, with the right safeguards.”
Royal Dutch Shell, Falcon Oil, Sunset Energy, Sasol Oil, and Bundu Oil and Gas are all eager to explore South Africa’s shale basin in the semi-arid Karoo region, which stretches between Capetown and Johannesburg. This area has the lowest population density in the country. But with over 6,000 plant species, 40 percent of which are unique to the area, the Karoo is rich in biodiversity. In February 2011, Susan Shabangu, the Minister of Mineral Resources, instituted a nation-wide ban on shale gas exploration, citing environmental concerns.
Pressure from both sides of the issue has only grown louder since Shabangu’s announcement. In March of this year, Treasure the Karoo Action Group, an organization fighting shale exploration, declared, “In the event that Minister Shabangu issues exploration licenses under the current status quo, we will look to the courts for protection.” In May, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, according to local media reports, called the gas beneath the Karoo a “blessing that God gives us,” adding, “and we need to exploit it for the benefit of the people.”
Since September, the government has been sending mixed messages. At first, Collins Chabane, a minister in the President’s office, announced that the moratorium was entirely lifted, but less than two weeks later, Shabangu corrected the record, explaining that the moratorium has only been lifted for “normal exploration” and that fracking remains off-limits. In a speech to parliament, she said, “Hydraulic fracturing – when and if it eventually happens – will be authorized under the strict supervision of the monitoring committee.” President Jacob Zuma has stayed out of the fray. When contacted for comment on this piece, for example, his office redirected the query to the Ministry of Mining.
Currently, coal dominates South Africa’s energy landscape, accounting for over 90 percent of electricity production. With proved reserves of 300 billion tons, coal provides the cheap energy South Africa needs to sustain its rapid economic rise. Those reserves can keep the country powered for the next century, but concerns about climate change are driving policymakers to seek alternatives. In this context, natural gas, which cuts greenhouse gas emissions in half compared to coal, has become increasingly attractive.
Ichumile Gqada, a researcher at the respected South Africa Institute of International Affairs, believes shale gas exploration in the Karoo should go forward. In an email, she wrote, “Ignoring the massive potential of the resource that might be in place in the Karoo by ‘leaving the resource in the ground,’ as some have suggested, would be unjustifiable in my eyes.”
The upside potential of exploration is powerfully attractive. A report released in September by the Department of Mineral Resources described the economic potential of fracking in the Karoo. In a “moderately optimistic” case, the authors estimate that if 30 trillion cubic feet, out of the estimated 485 trillion cubic feet, could be produced the financial windfall would be 1 trillion rand; in other words, a mere 6 percent of potential reserve is worth US $115 billion. The government report also cites PetroSA’s Mossel Bay project, where the production of just 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas led to the creation of over 1,500 jobs.
As incomes in South Africa continue to rise and energy demands increase, the economic logic of shale gas extraction may become irresistible. Local environmental groups such as Treasure the Karoo and international NGOs such as Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund should transform their message from stopping fracking at any cost to ensuring the highest health and environmental standards possible. Instead of protesting from the periphery, they should work to embed their members on advisory boards and oversight panels. By working with extractive industries instead of against them, civil society groups will have far more influence in shaping the future of fracking in South Africa.
For its part, the government must continue to ensure that environmental concerns guide future exploration. Working with industry and civil society, ministers must have clear, forceful regulations in place to guarantee the strictest consequences if energy companies cause environmental harm. It is also time that President Zuma makes an extended public statement on the issue.
Shale gas exploration has the potential to drive the next wave of economic growth in South Africa, reducing poverty and creating tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade. While the government must maintain the highest environmental standards for companies wishing to extract shale gas in the Karoo, it has an economic obligation to steadily open shale gas to further development, including fracking. It is time for South Africa’s government to lead the country to a more secure energy future.
John Schellhase is a graduate student at the Center for Global Affairs, New York University.
Fracking cancer risk, September 20 2012
KwaZulu-Natal – SA’s top water research body has warned the government to think carefully about the serious risk of water pollution from cancer-causing chemicals and radioactive compounds from future underground “fracking” operations across huge swathes of the country.
A new report by the state-funded Water Research Commission says shale gas rock-fracturing (fracking) will not only happen in remote sections of the Karoo. In fact, the government had already issued fracking exploration permits in six of the nine provinces, including a massive chunk of southern KwaZulu-Natal stretching almost as far north as Pietermaritzburg.
The scientists note that future fracking, at depths 4km below the earth’s surface, could be over a much wider area of the country – including most of the high-lying areas south of latitude 29°C in KZN (a line which starts at Mtunzini in the east and stretches inland past Estcourt towards Bloemfontein and Kimberley).
The report also identifies a number of risks to human health, water and the natural environment from fracking wells. These risks included:
– Widespread pollution of groundwater, rivers and lakes with dozens of cancer-causing fracking compounds and other “highly toxic” pollutants such as benzene, hydrochloric acid and isopropanol.
– Accidental release of underground uranium and other radioactive elements into the water and soil.
– Underground mini-earthquakes, cave-ins and land subsidence.
– Privatisation of parks and other state land where the public is excluded from fracking land and gas fields for safety reasons.
– Above-ground air pollution from methane and other shale gas wells.
– Lower property values.
However, water pollution is the main emphasis of the 84-page Water Research Commission report by Gideon Steyl (University of the Free State chemistry department), Gerrit van Tonder (University of the Free State Institute for Groundwater Studies) and Luc Chevallier (Council for Geoscience).
The scientists note that gas-drilling companies in the US have been trying to hide the toxic nature of many fracking chemicals.
However, the commission cites a report from the US House of Representatives last year which identified at least 29 commonly used fracking chemicals that were known or probable cancer-causing agents, or were regulated as hazardous to drinking water and air.
These chemicals are mixed with water and pumped underground at very high pressure to fracture and crack the rock formations to release buried pockets of methane and other gas formed millions of years ago from rotting mounds of mud, vegetation, algae and other organic matter.
Some chemicals included benzene (a known cancer-causing chemical) along with a variety of acids and petroleum products.
A study by the University of Buffalo in the US last year also raised concern about the possible release of underground uranium and other radioactive compounds when rocks are cracked up with hydrochloric acid.
Another US study published last year showed that the methane gas level in underground drinking water was generally 17 times higher in fracking areas compared with well water where no fracking took place.
However, Steyl and his colleagues voiced dismay over the difficulty in tracking down truly unbiased international studies on the impacts of fracking, since most were done by industry and private interests.
Even official US government reports claiming no damage to public health or the environment stood in contradiction to numerous adverse reports by US citizens and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The commission researchers note that a single fracking event in a single well used the same amount of water needed to irrigate eight to 10ha of maize during a growing season.
Every time a well was fracked, large volumes of chemicals were added to the water-pressure mixture. Although chemicals only made up between 0.5 and 2 percent of the mixture, the volume of hazardous chemicals in a single fracking event could total between 34 000 and 136 000 litres.
Even if just 1 percent of dangerous fracking chemicals leaked out of the concrete well drillings during a single fracking, Steyl estimated that 490 litres of hazardous chemicals could contaminate underground water. This could pose “serious hazards” to the environment and to underground water drunk by people and livestock.
Despite these concerns, the scientists appear to recognise that fracking is a fait accompli and they have listed a set of 10 recommendations to limit harm. They include compulsory “full disclosure” of every chemical used. Any fracking well should be at least 10km away from residential areas to reduce chemical exposure risks.
All drilling records should be freely available to the public, and a thorough baseline study should be done to measure pre-fracking quality of water, soil and air by an “unbiased” body such as a university.
Legal action should also be taken against any drilling company after a first offence. They should be forced to clean up damage, and be banned from future fracking in SA. However, even in the US, there were fewer than 10 inspectors to monitor more than 3 500 fracking wells in Pennsylvania. – The Mercury
An introduction to fracking in South Africa
The report also suggested that exploration proceed without allowing for horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, while laws are amended and a monitoring committee is established. Due to the fatal flaws in the applicants’ EMP’s and other considerations, TKAG will be opposing any licences that may be granted in the near future by legal means.
High Volume, Slickwater, Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”/”fraccing”, is the controversial technology used for the extraction of unconventional gas, such as shale gas. The technique involves a vertical well that is drilled to a depth of between 2000 m and 6000 m, after which the drilling bore turns to drill horizontally for a few thousand meters. A mixture of 99%-99.5% water and sand, along with 0.5% – 1% chemicals are pumped under high pressure into the well. This process fractures the shale rock layer, releasing the gas trapped between rock particles.
|Links to other resources||www.ejolt.org|
|Title||Shell Oil – The Awful Truth|
|Date released (year)||2010|
|Production company||Protect the human|
|Location||Nigeria/ Niger delta|
|Keywords/tags||Oil, natural resources, civil war|
|Link to film||http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejym4mKelhM&feature=related
|Synopsis||Shell Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. 80% of the oil extraction in Nigeria is in the Niger Delta, the southeast region of the country. The Delta is home to many small minority ethnic groups, including the Ogoni, all of which suffer egregious exploitation by multinational oil companies, like Shell. Shell provides over 50% of the income keeping the Nigerian dictatorship in power.
Although oil from Ogoniland has provided approximately $30 billion to the economy of Nigeria, the people of Ogoni see little to nothing from their contribution to Shell’s pocketbook. Shell has done next to nothing to help Ogoni. By 1996, Shell employed only 88 Ogoni (0.0002% of the Ogoni population, and only 2% of Shell’s employees in Nigeria). Ogoni villages have no clean water, electricity, abysmal health care, no jobs for displaced farmers and fisher persons and face the effects of unrestrained environmental molestation by Shell everyday.
Since Shell began drilling oil in Ogoniland in 1958, the people of Ogoniland have had pipelines built across their farmlands and in front of their homes, suffered endemic oil leaks from these very pipelines, been forced to live with the constant flaring of gas. This environmental assault has smothered land with oil, killed masses of fish and other aquatic life, and introduced devastating acid rain to the land of the Ogoni. For the Ogoni, a people dependent upon farming and fishing, the poisoning of the land and water has had devastating economic and health consequences. Shell claims to clean up its oil spills, but such “clean-ups” consist of techniques like burning the crude which results in a permanent layer of crusted oil metres thick and scooping oil into holes dug in surrounding earth.Both Shell and the government admit that Shell contributes to the funding of the military in the Delta region. Under the auspices of “protecting” Shell from peaceful demonstrators in the village of Umeuchem (10 miles from Ogoni), the police killed 80 people, destroyed houses and vital crops. Shell conceded it twice paid the military for going to specific villages. Although it disputes that the purpose of these excursions was to quiet dissent, each of the military missions paid for by Shell resulted in Ogoni fatalities. Shell has also admitted purchasing weapons for the police force who guard its facilities, and there is growing suspicion that Shell funds a much greater portion of the military than previously admitted.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were leaders of MOSOP, the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People. As outspoken environmental and human rights activists, they declared that Shell was not welcome in Ogoniland. On November 10, 1995, they were hanged after a trial by a special military tribunal (whose decisions cannot be appealed) in the murder of four other Ogoni activists. The defendants’ lawyers were harassed and denied access to their clients. Although none of them were near the town where the murders occurred, they were convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that many heads of state strongly condemned for a stunning lack of evidence, unmasked partiality towards the prosecution and the haste of the trial. The executions were carried out a mere eight days after the decision. Two witnesses against the MOSOP leaders admitted that Shell and the military bribed them to testify against Ken Saro-Wiwa with promises of money and jobs at Shell. Ken’s final words before his execution were:
|Reviews/discussion||See the Centre for Constitutional Rights, Factesheet on Shell in Nigeria:
Royal Dutch Shell, plc (Shell) began oil production in the
On November 10, 1995, nine Ogoni leaders (the “Ogoni
Shell acquitted of Nigeria pollution charges
The case involved five allegations of oil spills in Nigeria, four of which were quashed by the court
Plaintiff Nigerian farmer Eric Dooh showing his hand covered with oil from a creek near Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria. Photograph: Marten Van Dijl/EPA
Shell was acquitted in a Dutch court on Wednesday morning of most of the charges against it for pollution in Nigeria, where disputed oil spills have been a long-running source of contention between the oil company, local people and environmental campaigners.
The case involved five allegations of spills in Nigeria, and four of these were quashed by the court. On the fifth count, Shell was ordered to pay compensation, of an amount yet to be decided.
The case was brought in the Netherlands because of Shell’s dual headquartership, being both Dutch and British, and was brought by four Nigerian farmers co-sponsored by the international green campaigning group Friends of the Earth.
In a statement, Friends of the Earth Netherlands said: “This verdict is great news for the people in lkot Ada Udo who started this case together with Milieudefensie [Friends of the Earth Netherlands]. But the verdict also offers hope to other victims of environmental pollution caused by multinationals. At the same time, the verdict is a bitter disappointment for the people in the villages of Oruma and Goi – where the court did not rule to hold Shell liable for the damage. Fortunately, this can still change in an appeal.”
Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa programme director, said: “Clearly it’s good news that one of the plaintiffs in this case managed to clamber over all the obstacles to something approaching justice. However, the fact that the other plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed underscores the very serious obstacles people from the Niger Delta face in accessing justice when their lives have been destroyed by oil pollution.”
Shell’s subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, said the main cause of oil spills in the country was from people taking oil for illegal refineries. Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of SPDC said: “We welcome the court’s ruling that all spill cases were caused by criminal activity. Oil pollution is a problem in Nigeria, affecting the daily lives of people in the Niger Delta. However, the vast majority of oil pollution is caused by oil thieves and illegal refiners. This causes major environmental and economic damage, and is the real tragedy of the Niger Delta.”
He added: “SPDC has made great efforts to raise awareness of the issue with the government of Nigeria, international bodies like the UN, the media and NGOs. We will continue to be at the forefront of discussions to find solutions. For SPDC no oil spill is acceptable and we are working hard to improve our performance on operational spills. In the past years we have seen a decline in operational spill volumes. These spills, however, were caused by sabotage and the court has, quite rightly, largely dismissed the claims.”
The case turned on whether Shell was responsible for the spills, through negligence and a failure to invest in proper safety systems of the kind that are required in developed countries, as the campaigners alleged, or whether – as Shell argued – the spills were mainly the result of local people attempting to steal oil from pipelines.
It is understood that the court took the view that four of the spills were caused by sabotage, as people tried to extract oil for their own purposes. In the case of the fifth, the finding was that Shell had been negligent in failing to prevent such sabotage.
But the farmers and green campaigners are expected to appeal against the verdict to a higher court.
Shell is accused of widespread spills across the regions of Nigeria where it operates, but the allegations in question concerned incidents in Goi, Ogoniland, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom.
“There is an atmosphere of celebration here – the community feels that some justice has been done,” said Ken Henshaw, a Niger Delta activist from campaign group Social Action which has closely followed the case. “A precedent has been set, it has been made known that shell can be liable for damages and loss of livelihood.”
“We didn’t win all the cases, but we won one, and that one is a precedent,” Henshaw added. “We are prepared to appeal the other ones. Shell tries to give the impression that the oil spills are caused by sabotage, but we are convincied that it was not sabotage. It is the result of equipment failure and neglect on the part of Shell.”
“We are emboldened by this victory, we feel confident that we will definitely succeed on appeal. This is a major threshold, now that we have crossed it, we can bring more claims. The communities who have had their lives ruined by oil companies now feel galvanized to take action.”
Plantiffs from Ikot Ada Udo, Akwa Ibom State, whose case was successful, said they were now looking forward to compensation for their loss of livelihood.
“We were successful today, and I am happy, I know that the judgment has been divinely directed,” said Elder Friday Akpan, 55, from the Ikot Abasi area of Akwa ibom state, whose 47 catfish farms were destroyed following pollution from an oil spill, a claim which the court upheld as caused by a breach of Shell Nigeria’s duty of care.
“The fishes died completely. I was confused because it left me completely empty,” Akpan added. “I did not have some money to pay school fees for my twelve children, and nothing to allow me to earn my livelihood again. Debts I had borrowed I could not repay. There was nothing for me. I was finished.”
One lawyer involved in the case said that it was right to see it as a victory.
“There are positives and negatives from this case,” said Prince Chima Williams, head the legal affairs department at the Environmental Rights Action group. “It is positive in the sense that the court has found Shell liable for the environmental destruction in Akwa Ibom State. It is positive because it means that Nigerian citizens can now drag Shell to court in Holland for its actions and inactions in their communities.”
“The negative aspect is that the court refused to agree with us Shell’s negligence caused the other oil spills. Because we disagree with the court on that position, and that is why our first priority now is going to be to appeal the judgment,” Williams added.
The case has cast a spotlight on the power which Shell wields in Nigeria, amidst allegations that the Nigerian authorities would not have enforced the judgment had the case been brought in local courts.
“Shell do not admit mistakes,” said Akpan. They would not obey a judgment in a Nigerian court. When they know that the judgment is in Holland it’s better.”
“We considered all the options and the history of litigation in Nigeria before deciding to take the case to Holland,” said Williams. “We could not have confidence in the judiciary in Nigeria because, coming from our experience, when the judiciary gives a judgment, the enforcement of that judgment by the executive becomes a problem.”
“Shell is a very stubborn company, and in Nigeria, in some situations, it is more powerful than the Nigerian government,” Williams added.
Activists believe that the case will have a longer-term effect on attitudes within communities affected by oil spills in Nigeria.
“In the long run a case like this will promote self-help among communities, because they know that if they know they can go to court in Holland, they can obtain a judgment that will be complied with, from which they can reap the benefits” said Williams.
The level of damages is yet to be determined. “In the case itself we didn’t make specific demands for an amount, so the next step will be for the community to assist the court with an assessment of the actual loss that should be compensated,” said Williams.
|Links to other resources||Watts, M. (ed) (2008) Curse of the black gold: 50 years of oil in the Niger Delta. New York: Powerhouse.
Protect the Human: http://www.protectthehuman.com/shell