African ecosystems assailed by foreign-funded mining boom

Africa is experiencing a mining boom of truly unprecedented proportions, with hundreds of billions of dollars of investments pouring in from China, Australia, India, Canada, Russia, Brazil, and other nations.  Profound changes are ahead.  Can African ecosystems and wildlife survive?

  Trouble on the horizon... even the iconic Serengeti could be threatened by mining   (photo by William Laurance)

Trouble on the horizon... even the iconic Serengeti could be threatened by mining (photo by William Laurance)

This is the theme of a new article by David Edwards and colleagues, including ALERT director Bill Laurance, which has just appeared online in Conservation Letters.  

Among the key findings:

- Chinese investment in African mining has skyrocketed, and now exceeds $100 billion annually

- more than 230 Australian mining companies are working in 42 different African countries

- mining investments could have sizable economic benefits but are a driving force behind new roads and infrastructure projects that are opening up much of Sub-Saharan Africa to development pressures

- mining money could be highly destabilizing for many African governments that have long been plagued by corruption concerns

- Many of Africa's most spectacular ecosystems and centers of biological diversity could be imperiled by mining projects and associated developments

Few doubt that this foreign-investment-fueled mining boom will profoundly change Africa.  The question is just how much environmental damage will be inflicted during the feeding frenzy.