Cobalt Mining
In recent years, the world has seen a growing demand for mined materials because of the growing popularity of crystals and semiprecious gems. Included in the demand for mined materials is cobalt, which is increasingly necessary due to its role in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing. In fact, about “24% of the total cobalt demand” stems from EV production and the demand will continue to increase as more people continue to buy EVs. A prominent stakeholder in the crystal and mineral industry is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which produces “more than 70% of the world’s cobalt,” along with other semi-precious gems, crystals and gold. Of the cobalt mined, smaller mining operations, many without licenses, produce 15%-30%. The DRC government has failed to enforce proper accountability and ethics within cobalt mining in the DRC. This, combined with years of strict rule and war, has resulted in many people in the mining sector suffering human rights issues.

Human Rights Violations in DRC Mines

Cobalt mining in the DRC is rife with human rights abuses, such as the use of child labor. According to Amnesty International, an estimated 40,000 children are employed in artisanal mining in the DRC. A lack of proper safety precautions is also common practice and accidents frequently occur. Additionally, miners are usually subject to opportunist, abusive and exploitative mining firms, earning unlivable wages.

While it would be ideal for people within the mining industry to look toward alternative work, conditions in the DRC mean employment opportunities are scarce. Data from 2018 indicates that about 73% of the DRC lives in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day — an effect of previous wars and dictatorships. These factors have led to skyrocketing costs of living in the DRC and ravaged land, leaving people desperate to take up any opportunity they can find to survive. Since the nation sits on top of a large cobalt reserve that experts estimate holds more than 50% of the world’s cobalt supply, working in the mining industry in the DRC has more financial promise than other sectors, which imports dominate.

The lack of industry regulation allows exploitative practices to continue, but it also presents a public health crisis. Without the proper safety gear, miners of all ages experience continuing exposure to dust and particles that result in lung and skin diseases, like tuberculosis or dermatitis.

Solutions to Mining Injustices

In recent years, awareness around mining exploitation has been increasing, largely due to the fact that the industry is expanding along with technology. In 2020, several online activists brought attention to the human rights abuses within the artisanal mining industry by creating “the hashtag #NoCongoNoPhone to fight against the cobalt supply chain that fosters child labor and the exploitation of small-scale artisanal miners.”

Additionally, cobalt mining in the DRC is about to experience a regulation shift. Reuters reported in May 2021 that the DRC government is working with the Enterprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC) to establish control over the artisanal cobalt mining sector and obtain a monopoly over Congolese cobalt production. EGC is also partnering with PACT, an NGO in the global artisanal mining industry, to oversee and implement mining condition reforms in the DRC. Furthermore, EGC is working with a commodity and logistics giant, Trafigura, in order to provide “support on traceability down the supply chain.” The EGC will create “a price sharing formula” that splits mining profits between the private company, the miners and the government.

This model underwent testing at the Mutoshi copper mine and proved to be extremely helpful to local economies while also bringing about socio-economic benefits. In the trial, about 5,000 workers were part of a formal system, with PACT and Trafigura regulating the mining activities and pay. Miners reported reduced health expenditure due to better working conditions and “reduced workplace harassment for women,” among other positive impacts.

Looking Ahead

The mining industry in the DRC has suffered because of the lack of mechanisms put in place for accountability. While NGOs do important work on advocacy and mitigating the effects of broken systems, they have not been able to reach the roots of mining exploitation. However, the efforts of NGOs are now combining with those of the government and offer much hope in tackling human rights abuses within the mining industry.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Flickr

President Hichilema
In August 2021, Zambia elected a new president, Hakainde Hichilema, who will replace the incumbent President Edgar Lungu. Based on the results of the August 12 elections, Hichilema will serve as the Republic of Zambia’s seventh president. Previously, President Hilchilema ran five unsuccessful campaigns. However, the election saw a strong turnout among voters between the ages of 18 and 24 and Hichilema’s victory marks a new era for a nation that is in dire need of economic growth.

Zambia’s Dire State

Zambia is struggling economically as it became the first African nation to default on its debt in the coronavirus era in 2019. The country was experiencing a recession prior to the COVID-19 pandemic due to a steep decline in commodity prices. Since then, the country has struggled to pay off its international debts. With the onset of the pandemic, which further slowed the nation’s economy, the country accumulated roughly $12 billion in external debt. Additionally, $3 billion of this debt comes from international bonds and large loans from Chinese state-owned lenders. The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while currently awaiting word on a $13 billion bailout.

Zambia’s poverty rate currently sits around 58%, significantly higher than the 41% rate for all of Sub-Saharan Africa. As a nation that faces massive challenges in the form of international debt and domestic poverty, the world is curious to know what Hichilema’s election means for poverty in Zambia.

Hichilema’s Story

President Hichilema himself is a witness to the challenges that many rural Zambians experience. He refers to himself as a “cattle boy,” coming from a humble upbringing raising livestock. His personal story is one of success despite poverty. Having earned a scholarship to the University of Zambia, and later studying in England, Hichilema is now one of Zambia’s wealthiest people. He made a fortune as a businessman in various endeavors, from finance and property to tourism and healthcare.

Many young voters flocked to his voting camp with this story in mind. His agricultural roots appealed to many of the nation’s farmers. Likewise, his economic-minded platform addresses the country’s foremost needs that many citizens feel former President Lungu worsened.

What Can President Hichilema Accomplish?

One of Hichilema’s economic strategies under his administration is to take advantage of Zambia’s natural resources. The country is Africa’s second-leading producer of copper. Copper is becoming more advantageous economically as companies and industries move away from fossil fuel energy. Additionally, new technologies like electric vehicles rely on critical minerals like copper. The mining sector accounts for roughly three-quarters of Zambia’s export revenue.

Zambia’s political history in the mining industry has been testy. Under the Lungu regime, the government consolidated mines and created state-owned quarries, mostly as a ploy to maintain Lungu’s political power. Furthermore, foreign investors looking to capitalize on the unstable nation might be able to swoop in and cut safety requirements, leading to further crises.

By reexamining the mining codes and regulations, Hichilema has an opportunity to create long-term capital investments, jobs and economic growth. Other countries like Madagascar called on the World Bank to act as a third-party mediator between industry and government in the mining industry. Such a strategy could help Zambia take advantage of a booming copper market and assist in addressing the nation’s poverty needs.

With the new presidency of Hakainde Hichilema comes a new opportunity to reduce poverty in Zambia. Hichilema has shown a dedication to improving these conditions throughout his campaign and his ability to follow through on these promises and successfully manage Zambia’s mining industry could drive down poverty in the nation.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in the Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands is a country in Oceania located to the east of Papua New Guinea. Trends show that human trafficking in the Solomon Islands occurs mostly in logging camps and fishing sectors, but some are implementing significant efforts to eliminate it.

Background

Human trafficking in the Solomon Islands is most common in the logging camps and fishing boats, which are two primary sources of income for the country. Trafficking in these areas mostly revolves around the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Another concern of the U.S Department of State is child sex tourism.

According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which ranks countries as belonging to one of four tiers in their efforts to combat trafficking, the Solomon Islands are a Tier 2 country. This rating means that while the government is making significant efforts to comply with the standards set in place by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), it is not fully meeting the standards.

In September 2010, the American Bar Association set out to prevent and reduce human trafficking in the Solomon Islands with the help of the Department of State. The program aims for these five goals:

  1. Raise people’s awareness of human trafficking and provide education on how to prevent it.
  2. Improve protection for both witnesses and victims.
  3. Increase access to better support services for human trafficking survivors.
  4. Develop laws or policies to deter human trafficking.
  5. Find lawyers to serve as human trafficking experts within the Solomon Islands.

Prevention Efforts

The pandemic did not hinder the efforts toward ending human trafficking in the Solomon Islands. In fact, the Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Committee (AHTAC), consisting of government agencies and citizens, met frequently despite the challenges that the pandemic presented.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare raised concern about human trafficking in a national address. Sogavare was concerned with trafficking in the fishing sector and announced that his government, along with international organizations, would be working on creating policies that aimed to erase sexual exploitation and modern slavery on fishing vessels operating in the Solomon Islands’ waters. According to an international organization, this address was the first time many Solomon Island citizens heard the term “human trafficking.” In the address, Sogavare also announced the completion of the National Security Strategy and National Border Strategy, which focused on migration, transnational crime, labor, trade, employment and investment, and their relationship to trafficking.

The Department of Immigration (DOI), together with the Solomon Islands Forestry Association, conducts campaigns to raise awareness about human trafficking near logging and mining sites. The campaigns focus on the consequences for those involved in human trafficking and the country’s trafficking laws.

Progress in Protection

Over the course of the pandemic, law enforcement individuals are still receiving training on victim identification and support. In 2018, authorities identified 39 potential trafficking victims and five in 2019 compared with four identified victims in 2020. One of the four victims was a foreigner living in the Solomon Islands and the other three were Solomon Islands citizens that were out of the country. Although internal sex trafficking is reportedly common, authorities did not identify any cases of sex trafficking.

In 2019, the Solomon Islands government gave $50,000 of its yearly budget to human trafficking victim care and shelter services. Despite problems and restraints caused by the pandemic, the government was still able to give $49,130 towards victim care, protection, investigation efforts and public education about human trafficking in the Solomon Islands in 2020.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police chose the capital, Honiara, as the site for a domestic violence shelter that provides aid to women and children that were sex trafficking victims. However, the government failed to provide support for adult male victims or victims of labor trafficking. Due to the location of the shelter, the protection services are difficult to access because most trafficking victims come from the provinces. The deficiencies in protection services for victims of human trafficking in the Solomon Islands likely led to fewer victims coming forward, and therefore, fewer prosecutions.

Looking Forward

In recent years, the Solomon Islands government has worked to bring an end to human trafficking within its borders. Although work still needs to occur, policies and programs are in place to bring the country closer to eliminating human trafficking.

Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Resource rushes impact global povertyIn June 2021, impoverished South Africans in the province of KwaZulu-Natal flocked to the town of KwaHlathi after reports of diamonds in the area, the most modern example of a resource rush. Many people hoped this could be their key out of poverty in a country with a 32.6% unemployment rate and a stagnating GDP per capita. Unfortunately, the gems were actually quartz, a common crystal found across the globe, dashing the hopes of these amateur miners. In the developed world, the resource rushes once common in the 19th century have now largely faded away, replaced by institutionalized mining companies. However, the developing world still struggles with informal mining and its environmental, economic and political consequences. Because of this, resource rushes impact global poverty both directly and indirectly.

What is a Resource Rush?

Resource rushes occur when a natural resource is discovered and many people move to participate in its extraction. In the 19th and 20th centuries, resource rushes for gold and diamonds led to the colonization and settlement of many parts of South Africa, Australia and the Western United States. Modern-day resource rushes do not drive the same levels of migration. However, they still carry large impacts on the economies of developing countries.

Why is it Important?

In the 21st century, resource rushes create both opportunities and conflicts. Currently, more than 15 million small-scale “artisanal” miners operate in resource-rich areas, many times informally. Nearly 100 million people rely on the income that artisanal mining brings. Artisanal miners usually have to sell their goods below market price as there is usually only one large local buyer. While an important source of income, the extraction process is largely inefficient due to the small scale of these artisanal mining operations. This creates an opportunity to develop single or multi-person mining operations by increasing the efficiency of artisanal miners and connecting them to global markets.

On the other hand, resource discoveries commonly drive violent conflicts and human rights abuses. Large resource discoveries, combined with access to arms from previous conflicts, have driven wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. Many times, the armed groups extracting these resources use them to fund their operations, drawing the label of “conflict minerals.”

Resource rushes also lead to migration. Mineral deposits, largely in rural or environmentally preserved areas, attract large numbers of settlers who heighten the human impact on these areas. These impacts create environmental strain, leading to deforestation, lower standards of temporary informal housing and chemical pollution.

Building a Better Mining Industry

Artisanal and small-scale mining ventures offer many opportunities for growth around the world. While problems of health hazards and political conflicts exist, many actions by national, international and NGO stakeholders are working to overcome these challenges.

One project involving the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) partnered with the Peruvian government to improve the environmental impacts and working conditions of small-scale mining. This project utilized technical assistance, working with national governments to create system-wide change. This resulted in the implementation of mercury-reducing technologies in Peruvian mines. Other initiatives in the continent have sought to organize small-scale mines to sell their products on the international market, avoiding price-setting middlemen.

Another project in Central Africa by PACT, an NGO that focuses on mining issues, works to create a verification system so that consumers can choose responsibly sourced raw materials. This verification system includes 54,836 miners spread across 727 mines with 672 government officials tasked with implementing the system. By verifying raw materials and helping consumers gain access to raw material markets, PACT has made a large impact on raw material extraction in Central Africa.

These projects aim to reduce the impacts of informal mining at the local level, but national governments of importing countries can also implement policies toward the same goal. In 2012, the U.S. launched the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Mineral Trade, a multi-sector task force aimed at implementing measures to stop imports of conflict minerals.

Looking to the Future

Resource rushes impact global poverty by fueling conflicts, migration and creating substandard mining industries that further contribute to deforestation and various forms of pollution. However, through projects such as PACT’s, organizations are working to improve the conditions of small-scale ventures so that workers and their dependents can sell their products on the international market. In this way, impoverished people have the opportunity to improve their lives and rise out of poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Growing Industries Improve Lesotho's EconomyThe small kingdom of Lesotho lies in the middle of South Africa, completely landlocked within its mountainous regions. When Lesotho gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, it was established as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. A majority of the country lives in poverty, relying on subsistence farming and the economy of its much larger neighbor, South Africa. Struggling to stand alone as a country vastly overshadowed by South Africa, four factors contribute to increases in Lesotho’s economy. Industries, such as diamond and textiles, are working to bring the country out of poverty and increase its GDP.

Private Sector-Led Economic Growth

Part of Lesotho’s economic growth can be attributed to the promotion of businesses and industries that are not under the direct control of the government. This initiative was supported more fully by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, who approved $13.4 million donated to the government of Lesotho to assist with its promotion.

According to the World Bank, “the Second Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP II) will help improve the business environment through the continued facilitation of reforms to reduce the time and cost associated with doing business in Lesotho, provide easier access to finance, make trading across borders simpler and provide streamlined, accessible and efficient government to business services in order to attract private investment and boost growth.” The PSCEDP II is already seeing growth through economic diversification and an improved business environment, which is crucial for Lesotho’s economy.

The Diamond Industry

The discovery of diamonds made a large impact on the economy of Lesotho, as some of the world’s most valuable diamonds have been discovered there. Mining for diamonds began in the mid-20th century, but a lack of decent finds made the mines close. However, the mines reopened in 2004 when new technology helped increase diamond discovery and the country’s overall GDP. Through the use of diamond exportation, revenue has drastically helped assist the economy of Lesotho. In 2011, diamonds constituted 31% of Lesotho’s total exports.

Additionally, operators of the mines aim to assist local communities. The Letseng mine, world-famous for its priceless diamonds, set aside $300,000 in 2014 to help its local community. This money funded projects to increase living conditions and provide survival training for herd boys. Not only is the diamond industry extremely beneficial for the economy of Lesotho, but it is also beneficial for the local communities and areas surrounding the mines.

The Textile Industry

Starting with a handful of textile factories originating in the 1990s, the textile industry has now become one of the largest employers of Lesotho people, with approximately 50,000 jobs available to communities. The textile industry holds thousands of jobs, primarily for women who account for 80% of employees within the industry. Between 2014 and 2019, the manufacturing sector of Lesotho’s economy grew 34%. Consequently, this increase allowed for a tripling of textile exports sent out to South Africa. By providing thousands of jobs to people, especially women, the poverty levels have eased and the GDP has increased significantly. With the assistance of the textile industry, the increased exportation of products is healing and strengthening the economy of Lesotho.

The Highlands Water Development Project

Lesotho and South Africa created and signed a plan concerning Lesotho’s exceedingly large water resources. This infrastructure project would benefit both countries in the transferring of water and the production of hydroelectricity. The initiative began in 1986 to help Lesotho’s electricity production independence. In addition, Lesotho would gain revenue by providing water to South Africa.

Moving water from the Orange River toward the Atlantic, this project includes the building of five dams and approximately 200 kilometers of tunnels to transport water to South Africa and produce electricity for Lesotho in three distinct phases, the last of which was to be completed in 2020. With this project, approximately 2,000 million cubic meters of water are transported from Lesotho to South Africa every year. This initiative has already helped improve the economy of Lesotho and save money through the production of hydroelectricity.

The assistance of these four factors is working to change the economy to alleviate the impacts of poverty throughout Lesotho. If growth continues with the assistance of private sector-led promotion, the diamond and textile industries and the Highlands Water Development Project, significant hope remains for this small country.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Alternatives to Cobalt MiningAs the demand for electric cars increases, so does the need for the controversial car battery mineral: cobalt. Cobalt is an essential mineral in lithium-ion batteries. These batteries help power “electric cars, computers and cellphones.” The demand for cobalt is steadily increasing with the rising sales of electric vehicles, which promises a positive environmental impact. However, cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has seen frequent cases of child labor, accidental deaths and violence between miners and security personnel of mining companies. Tesla, the best seller of electric cars in 2020, is looking for alternatives to cobalt mining with plans to eradicate the mineral from its batteries entirely.

Problems in Cobalt Mining

More than 70% of global cobalt comes from the DRC. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is responsible for producing 15% to 30% of Congolese cobalt. Over the years, human rights activists have reported strong concerns of human rights violations in mining operations. Activists have pressed for urgent attention and alternatives to cobalt mining.

In 2018, roughly 60 million Congolese people lived in conditions of extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day. Because of this poverty, ASM cannot be entirely shut down as it is the primary source of income for many Congolese people. Furthermore, removing ASM is impossible because of its involvement in the complexity of the cobalt supply chain.

Miners in the DRC, including children, work in harsh and hazardous conditions. About 100,000 cobalt miners use hand-operated tools and dig hundreds of feet underground. Death and injury are common occurrences and extensive mining exposes local communities to toxic metals that are linked to breathing problems and birth defects.

Tesla’s Plan

Panasonic, Tesla’s battery cell supplier, wants cobalt-free batteries to be ready and available for Tesla cars within the next two to three years. The cathode of lithium-ion batteries used to consist of 100% cobalt. Over the years, Panasonic has reduced the amount of cobalt to 5%. Although reducing the use of cobalt improves the environment and decreases the cost of production, it also makes batteries more difficult to produce.

Panasonic recently partnered with Redwood Materials. Redwood Materials is a recycling startup that was established by J.B. Straubel, former Tesla chief technical officer. The startup recycles battery scraps and electronics to save and reuse materials such as “nickel, cobalt, aluminum, copper” and more. As part of the partnership, Panasonic would like to reuse these materials in its battery manufacturing.

Tesla is making efforts to look for alternatives to cobalt mining. However, a massive increase in the production of batteries has created a higher demand for the mineral. In 2020, Tesla secured a deal with Swiss mining giant Glencore. Although Glencore gets most of its cobalt from the DRC, Tesla has stipulated in its contract that suppliers use “conflict-free” minerals. The contract states that it is essential that the minerals procured “do not benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Until Tesla can run its own battery manufacturing or until Panasonic can effectively produce cobalt-free batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles, the company will have to continue procuring cobalt for its batteries from the DRC.

Solutions to Corruption in Cobalt Mining

While Tesla’s plan for cobalt reduction in its batteries is a promising start in the search for alternatives to cobalt mining, there is also the solution of “ASM formalization.” Some companies have used ASM formalization to regulate their cobalt sourcing. Different methods of this formalization include:

  • Putting forth regulations for mining methods and working conditions.
  • Establishing ASM regulations with fundamental stakeholders for mine safety and child labor and ensuring that cobalt is obtained responsibly.
  • Formally recognizing ASM and monitoring compliance with regulations to ensure human rights are protected.

The DRC government has put in place a Mining Code and has designated specific areas of land for ASM. However, full implementation of ASM formalization will require the aid of private companies. Although regulating the mining industry in the DRC is challenging, there are several ASM formalization pilot projects that the country can learn from. With the help of these projects and the support of companies like Tesla, the DRC is on its way to addressing the root causes of human rights issues in the mining sector.

Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Mining for Mica
The majority of the world’s mica comes from India, more specifically the country’s eastern states. Jharkhand and Bihar, two regions in the country’s eastern states, are where the majority of the mining for mica happens. In fact, around 60% of the world’s mica comes from those two regions. Before mica ends up in shiny eyeshadow and many other makeup products, it passes through many networks’ middlemen and wholesalers; it also crosses many borders. Thus, it is nearly impossible to trace the origins of mica and the harsh reality that children frequently mine this mineral.

About Mica

The makeup industry is a prominent part of Western culture. Some common beauty products are powder, eye shadow and eyeliner. Upon close examination of what is in these products, the realization has emerged that they all have a common ingredient, mica. Mica, also known as muscovite, is a natural mineral. Because mica is a mineral, it requires mining. Mica has the appearance of flakes and is rather flexible. It is light in weight and relatively soft.

Mica and Child Labor in India

Children mine mica illegally in India as they have small frames and can easily access the minerals underground. These children generally do not have an education and are unable to attend school due to their families’ lack of funds. Children as young as 5 years old must work long hours in the mines to make money for their families. Estimates have determined that around 4,545 children in Jharkhand and the surrounding region are not attending school. Moreover, the hazardous work environment negatively impacts their health. Cases such as tuberculosis, skin infection, respiratory infection, asthma and head injuries are not uncommon. Many children have supposedly died while working in the mines. However, because mining is illegal, local officials frequently cover them up, thus making an actual fatality count rather difficult.

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is a foundation that strives to end all violence against and exploitation of children. It is doing so by ensuring child protection through research, innovations, awareness generation, promoting partnerships and participation. Since 2005, KSCF has been working in mining areas where children illegally work as laborers. It raises funds to send many children to school. It intends to rescue all children from mining and send them to school. KSCF regularly issues saplings to the children and encourages them to plant them. This is an effort to spread awareness of their environment.

There are 171 counselors in 150 villages of Jharkhand who create awareness against sending children for mining and other social issues. KSCF has freed over 3,000 children from mica mines and 80,000 children from child labor across multiple industries.

Though mining for mica is still illegal in India, many children and adults continue to do it to provide for their families. Moreover, many deaths have occurred but people have not reported them for fear of losing income. While India still produces mass amounts of mica, the help of organizations like KSCF should gradually help eliminate the use of children in mica mining.

– Candice Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania’s President Samia Hassan Plans to Strengthen the Economy
On March 17, 2021, the vice president of Tanzania announced that her former running mate and former President John Magufuli had died of long-term heart problems. Samia Suluhu Hassan, who is respectfully called Mama Samia, additionally informed the country that she would be taking his place. President Samia Hassan is Tanzania’s first female president and currently Africa’s only female national leader.

President Samia Hassan

President Samia Hassan’s announcement marks a historic time for Tanzanians—especially women. However, the citizens of Tanzania are skeptical about how she plans to govern the country going forward, and Tanzanians have yet to fully learn how Hassan will differ from Magufuli as a leader. One key concern surrounds whether she will maintain Magufuli’s “skeptical approach” to handling the novel coronavirus.

In her first month as president, Hassan has prioritized economic growth in a variety of ways. She plans to strengthen Tanzania’s economy through the further development of mining and extraction in the country. In a televised address, she emphasized Tanzania’s need for increased foreign investment to encourage growth, namely in the mining of helium, gold and nickel and oil extraction. President Samia Hassan particularly emphasized the economic potential of helium, which could become a major market in Tanzania. The Rukwa helium project in southwestern Tanzania, which President Hassan currently supports, “could supply between 10% and 15% of the world’s helium needs for the next hundred years.”

Helium in Tanzania

The Rukwa project, which Helium One owns, possesses 3,590 square kilometers of land, making it “the largest known primary helium resource in the world.”

Projections have determined that President Hassan’s plan to capitalize on Tanzania’s natural resources will be successful, mainly because of the country’s natural resource abundance. In addition to the resources above, Tanzania contains both new and long-running graphite, uranium, coal and gemstone deposits and projects.

Oil Extraction in Tanzania

In addition to supporting Tanzania’s mining industry, President Samia Hassan is also in the process of passing new legislation which will lead to an increase in oil extraction in the country. She has signed three key deals with Uganda and the French oil company Total to lead the construction of a heated pipeline to transport crude oil from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean coast. The new project will be the East African Crude Oil Pipeline and expectations have determined that it will increase economic growth in Tanzania.

Overall, President Hassan’s plan to take advantage of Tanzania’s rich mineral and material deposits could facilitate economic growth for Tanzania, which she has expressed to be her main goal. After just more than a month as president, Hassan has already signed a major deal with Uganda on the construction of a new crude oil pipeline. She has used her new role to support Tanzania’s mining industries, most importantly in helium extraction which should increase economic growth considerably. President Samia Hassan has been quick to begin her work as Tanzania’s new leader, creating a positive example of female leadership for other African countries.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

One Health
For those living in wealthy nations, infectious diseases and foodborne illnesses are typically an inconvenience. Improvements in healthcare technology, including widespread vaccinations for once-deadly diseases, can render events such as the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly rare. However, in low-income nations, this is not the case. Around 420,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses, most commonly children under 5 years old in Africa and Southeast Asia. Here is some information about the causes of disease outbreaks worldwide and the means of disease prevention that people know as One Health.

The Situation

Infectious disease outbreaks have increased significantly from 1980 and include SARS, H1N1, Ebola, MERS, Zika and COVID-19. Additionally, up to 75% of new infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they begin in animals and transfer to humans. Some animals, such as bats, are resistant to becoming ill and easily spread diseases that lie dormant in their immune systems.

Zoonoses are more and more common as humans become further integrated with the natural world. Reasons for the increase of zoonoses include:

  • Deforestation and Mining: Deforestation and mining destroy habitats and force animal populations closer to civilization. The World Economic Forum estimates that 31% of infectious outbreaks have a link to deforestation.
  • Urbanization: Urbanization can foster the dominance of disease-prone species such as white-footed mice.
  • Factory Farming: Factory farming harbors large populations of genetically similar animals in unsanitary conditions that are susceptible to disease outbreaks.
  • Wet Markets: Wet market merchants often bring exotic species out of their habitats and near humans.
  • Tourism of Wildlife: Tourism of wildlife, such as caves that contain bats, risks spreading diseases to humans.
  • Bacterial Infections and Antibiotics: While bacterial infections currently pose a minor threat due to the widespread availability of antibiotics, experts warn that modern animal agriculture practices, where farmers give antibiotics to livestock in large doses, are rapidly breeding strains of bacterial diseases resistant to antibiotics. Many of these strains are beginning to pose a threat in medical treatment practices.

One Health

Between foodborne illnesses, antibiotic resistance and zoonotic diseases, it is clear that the well-being of animals closely ties with the well-being of humans. This perspective of disease prevention is known as One Health. The One Health model necessitates considering major environmental and agricultural policy shifts, but people are already taking small steps to directly reduce disease transmission. Health agencies around the world are holding conferences to prioritize zoonotic disease prevention and conducting investigations into the origins of outbreaks.

In Thailand, a team of software developers launched a movement to monitor animal illnesses and contain possible outbreaks of zoonoses. Since 75% of rural Thai households have backyard animals, disease transfer is a major concern. The project, called Participatory One Health Disease Detection, consists of 3,000 volunteers using a smartphone app to report information about sick and dead animals to the project developers, who are veterinarians at Chiang Mai University. The developers are able to detect, investigate and quarantine potential outbreak risks. According to the Gates Foundation, an infectious disease could spread to every global capital in just 60 days, so detecting an outbreak early could save thousands of lives.

Keeping the human population safe from deadly diseases means acknowledging the connections between civilization and animal habitats, especially in high-poverty areas where habitat destruction from resource extraction such as deforestation and mining means that line increasingly blurs. The One Health model sets short-term and long-term goals for monitoring and restoring the health and safety of animals and the natural world.

– Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr

Africa's Mining Industry
When people think of natural resources, Africa may not often the first place that comes to mind. A lot of the continent is still developing while civil war and poverty riddle many of its countries. However, Africa is home to an abundance of natural resources such as metals and minerals. More than 100 mining companies currently operate out of South Africa alone. Additionally, Africa is responsible for about 20% of the world’s gold production and is also a large producer of other metals such as cobalt, copper and lithium. It is essential for countries to possess a raw material to trade in order for the continent to make the leap from developing to developed. Africa’s mining industry could be the crucial ingredient necessary for the continent to make that leap.

The Barriers

The lack of domestic companies and education are two major hangups preventing Africa from utilizing all of its metal and mineral reserves. Although Africa is home to valuable raw materials, many foreign companies have moved in to mine them. Additionally, it has not reinvested enough into local communities. The solution is to restructure how the foreign companies operate and slowly allow domestic companies to move in.

Foreign companies bring the knowledge and machinery necessary to tap into the mines’ full potential. However, African workers do not receive the opportunities they deserve. Foreign companies pumped in almost $20 billion to fund mining operations throughout Africa between 2015 and 2018.

One possible solution is for foreign mining companies to provide training programs and management positions to locals. With proper guidance, African natives can receive training to handle mining operations themselves. Thus, this would eliminate the need for a foreign workforce and would open up the floodgates for advancement within countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana where metals and minerals are plentiful.

A Major Opportunity

The electric vehicle (EV) market is perhaps the biggest opportunity for Africa’s mining industry. Africa is home to large reserves of cobalt, lithium and nickel. All of these are crucial materials for EV batteries. Forbes estimates that almost 40% of all car sales will be electric by 2040. In addition, several automakers have made the commitment to go totally electric by 2050.

It is undeniable that the world is making a major shift from gas power to electricity, and the demand for these metals has skyrocketed. If more domestic companies arise, Africa will have a major influence on trade on the world stage. This would give the continent immense bargaining power. Moreover, it would make Africa far more appealing to trade in the next few decades.

The Good News

Although Africa’s mining industry needs improvement, several reserves remain untapped. This means that there is still plenty of time to improve practices and open up even more jobs for locals. Almost all mining companies in Africa could be domestic with more government involvement and regulation.

A thriving local mining industry will open up opportunities and incentives for natives. Furthermore, local industries will feel more compelled to reinvest in their home countries than companies from overseas. The opportunity exists, African countries just need to capitalize on it.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr