the Economy of the Republic of BuryatiaIn the Far East of the Russian Federation lies a vast region characterized by a diversity of topographical features and a rich ancient history. The remote Republic of Buryatia increasingly serves as a regional economic powerhouse, rich in natural resources and human capital. Below are 10 facts about the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.

10 Facts About the Economy of the Republic of Buryatia

  1. The Republic of Buryatia is seeing a gradual decline in absolute population numbers. A 2016 census recorded 983,209 people in the republic in 2017. This is down from a total population of 1.02 million in 1997. A shrinking population may lead to adverse consequences for the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.
  2. Both industrial and agrarian means of production are well represented in the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Forestry, food production, fuel and power, construction, the paper industry and the processing of both metal and wood account for the vast majority of industrial production. Mining operations explore, develop and extract coal, gold and non-magnetic metals. Agricultural operations feed much of the Russian Far East by producing dairy, meat, flour, cereals and animal feed.
  3. The cumulative value of exports from the Republic of Buryatia for the second quarter of 2017 measured approximately $374 million. A persistent decline in revenues from total exports began in 2012 though it has been subject to significant oscillations. In contrast, the republic imports $28 million worth of goods. The value of imports year to year exhibits some instability but still indicates a general decline over five successive years.
  4. The energy sector of the Republic of Buryatia relies greatly upon the region’s abundant coal reserves. Balance reserves totaling approximately 2.6 billion tons alongside deposit reserves of more than 1.1 billion tons may adequately supply the regional economy for another half-century. The government’s asset records attest to 13 brown and hard coal deposits subject to processing with another six undergoing development. 
  5. Despite the vitality of the coal sector, a decline in the demand for electricity may hinder the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Power plants satisfy local requirements so much so that the republic exports electricity to neighboring regions like Mongolia. However, electricity consumption by the republic’s forestry and agricultural sectors remains low compared to the transport, communications and power plant sectors. Electricity use in 2017 was substantially lower than in the 1990s.
  6. In 2017, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent of the population in Russia. That same year, unemployment in the Republic of Buryatia affected 9.6 percent of the region’s population. But this most recent statistic is part of a systematic downward trend in the region’s unemployment rate. From a high of 17.8 percent unemployment in 2003, the decline to a 9.6 percent employment rate in 2017 attests to a steady improvement in this sphere of the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.
  7. The poverty rate in the Republic of Buryatia significantly oscillates year to year, yet data indicates a general decline in poverty. In 2015, 17.9 percent of the republic’s population lived beneath the poverty line. According to data collected in 2014, the average impoverished person in the Republic of Buryatia requires an income increase of 1.9 percent to meet minimum subsistence levels. 
  8. The freshwater reservoir Lake Baikal plays an essential role in the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Measuring 636 kilometers across and 80 kilometers wide, Lake Baikal hosts an estimated 250 unique animal species out of an approximate total of 2,500 local species. Besides the diverse biome, rich mineral deposits abound. Half a century of development in the Lake Baikal region yielded more than 700 mineral reserves. 
  9. Individually-owned farms comprise 83 percent of the Republic of Buryatia’s total crop production. By contrast, only 57 percent of the total crop production of the Russian Federation emerges from farm households. However, only 11 percent of the total land of the republic belongs to individually-owned agricultural operations.
  10. In 2015, the rural demographic of the Republic of Buryatia numbered 402,520 people. The following year, the rural demographic rose 0.29 percent to 403,698 people. The urban demographic consisted of 579,511 people in 2016, a 0.28 percent increase from the previous year. Though comprising 58.9 percent of the republic’s population, data indicates a steady decline in the urban population from 1997 onward.

Though some data indicates that the economy of the Republic of Buryatia faces considerable obstacles, the general picture of the region is one of economic vitality. As a resource-rich region with a productive population, the future may bode well for this remote corner of the Russian Federation.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Drones improving South Africas mines
Toward the end of the 19th century, explorers found diamonds near South Africa’s Orange River.

This marked the beginning of the chain of events that helped turn South Africa into a mining juggernaut.

Despite the danger associated with the work in this industry, it remains crucial to the nation in terms of employment and gross domestic product.

Today, advanced technology, especially drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have the potential to transform South Africa’s mining economy.

The nation has high unemployment and poverty rate and it remains to be seen if drones in South Africa have the power to help or hurt poverty in the nation.

Mining and South Africa’s Economy

Mining industry accounts for the biggest industry in South Africa and mined goods are the country’s biggest exports.

This industry is a large part of South Africa’s economy as the country is rich in coal, diamonds, gold and platinum.

In regards to this, South Africa has attracted large foreign direct investments in the local mining industry.

Nearly 500,000 South Africans worked in the sector and this contributed to around $22 billion in country’s GDP in 2017.

Drones in South Africa’s Mining Industry

Commercial drone use is gaining popularity in South Africa so much that Engineering News has declared 2018 as the year of the drone.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority has regulated drone use since 2015 and currently allows 24 companies to incorporate UAVs in business operations.

There are somewhere from 30,000 to 50,000 drones in the country, but more the potential for the increase is present.

Almost 340 applicants are waiting for approval of drone-use. For one of the nation’s largest iron ore producers, Kumba Iron Ore, drones are a large part of the business and drilling is high-tech.

The company uses drones and machines to drill holes and drop explosives for excavation.

In previous times, miners would spend long days sitting on construction machines for the excavation process, but drones have sped up and simplified it.

Kumba also uses autonomous drills and is one of only two companies to adopt this technology worldwide.

Drones are also being used to monitor drilling sites, keeping humans away from dangerous working conditions.

The drones outfitted with cameras and scanners can provide data on operations and current conditions in the mine.

Another company that is using for drones in mining is Exxaro Resources Group in partnership with Rocketmine.

Rocketmine uses UAVs for terrain surveying, stockpile inspection, blast monitoring and mapping services and contracts out drones throughout Africa.

Exxaro’s Grootegeluk coal mine is taking advantage of drones for surveying and mapping in order to increase production through better efficiency.

Effects on Human Jobs

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the market value of drone-powered solutions is over $127 billion.

Drones are revolutionizing mining and keeping more people away from dangerous working conditions.

Unfortunately, men and women in this sector are this could potentially be even worse in the future.

“The sad reality is,” writes Robert J. Traydon for news24 “there will be fewer and fewer jobs available in large mining operations as robots continue to take over.”

That sentiment is hardly universal. The drone industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs for qualified drone pilots.

More specifically, this sector could create more than 30,000 jobs yearly. A rather large caveat is that workers will need to be experienced or high-potential drone pilots. Unskilled laborers may receive no benefit from drone mining.

Mining Drones in South Africa and Poverty in the Country

Poverty is a huge issue for the people of South Africa as the nation faces both unemployment and persistent poverty levels.

Over 25 percent of the workforce is unemployed and almost half of South Africa’s people are chronically poor.

South African men and women need real solutions. Mining is a huge part of the economy and any changes in this industry will have dramatic effects on the South African workers.

If mining drones in South Africa can provide more jobs this could be a good thing for the nation.

Unfortunately, the drones could take human jobs and negatively impact poverty and unemployment. It is still unclear how changes in the mining sector will play out overall for South Africa’s economy and people in general.

There is no doubt that drones in South Africa can make working conditions safer and more efficient for miners in the country.

The only question is the real effect drones will have on South African unemployment and poverty.

Drones take away manpower at dangerous mining sites, but also create jobs for drone pilots and others through the supply chain.

It remains to be seen how this resource-rich nation fully incorporates drones and whether these tools ultimately increase or decrease poverty in the country.

Just like the case in many other sectors, the effect of mining drones in South Africa is neither black nor white when it comes to alleviating poverty.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Child Miners
An estimated 1 million children worldwide work as miners. These are 10 facts about child miners in the world today.

Key Child Miners Facts

  1. Child miners can be found in parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Most of these children, from economically downtrodden backgrounds, are either uneducated or school-dropouts, with the exception of a few who attend both work and school. They work in inhumane and dangerous conditions to extract minerals and ores in high demand in the global market.
  2. Mining is considered one of the worst forms of child labor as the hazardous working conditions in mines adversely affect the safety and health of children.
  3. One of the facts about child miners working in the artisanal mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is they contribute to the production of cobalt, coltan, copper and tin. These materials are used in the fabrication processes of modern electronics like laptops and cell phones. Of the 2 million miners in DRC’s artisanal mines, 40 percent are children and their earnings range from $0.75 to $3 a day. In 2017, Amnesty International warned the world of the use of child labor in cobalt mining and urged large companies to be wary of purchasing unethically mined cobalt.
  4. Poverty, lack of educational and economic opportunities, corruption, lenient law-enforcement and the soaring demands for mined materials in the global market are primary reasons for the prevalence of child labor in mines.
  5. Cobalt mining often involves injuries, death and health hazards. Stone mining causes dehydration, respiratory infections and accidents. Gold mining exposes children to toxic vapors and mercury-poisoning, and mining salt exposes child miners to dizziness, skin problems and iris discoloration.
  6. Stone quarries in Guatemala are often found along public shores, where poor families set up camps to mine volcanic river rocks. These are then sold to construction companies at low prices. According to reports by the International Labour Organization (ILO), it takes three days for a 13-year-old boy to produce one cubic meter of gravel that sells for $7.50. Children as young as five are found collecting and breaking rocks with hammers in these mines. Both adults and children work eight hours a day, six to seven days a week. The quarries in Nepal are reported to have child miners between ages 10 to 12. Girls and boys in Madagascar’s stone quarries also work long hours collecting and crushing blocks of stones.
  7. Of the 10 facts about child miners in the world, gold mining deserves a special mention as it exposes children to mercury-poisoning, which is extremely likely due to the nature of gold extraction. Child gold miners are often found in the Sahel region of Africa (mainly in Burkina Faso and Niger). High levels of poverty in the region forces families to send children under 18 to work in the mines. They constitute 30 to 50 percent of the entire gold-mining workforce. These children work with heavy and primitive equipment to break rocks and transport them to washing, crushing and mineral processing. Children often work underground in narrow shafts and galleries.
  8. The ILO estimates 10,000 children are involved in gold mining in Ghana and more than 65,000 children work in the mines of Bolivia, Peru and Equador. According to a study by the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), many instances of illegal mining occur in Côte d’Ivoire, where children are often trafficked from neighboring areas and held in slavery-like conditions. Mongolia and the Philippines are some of the other countries with child miners.
  9. IPEC has been working hard to ensure that children in areas like Niger and Senegal are protected from joining the salt mining business. A highly labor-intensive process, mining salt includes harvesting (digging pits, filling and lifting sacks) and distilling salt alongside transporting ore and fuel to aid the process. Children participate in all stages of salt mining.
  10. Child labor is also widely used in the mica mining industry in India and Madagascar; talc mining in Brazil; coal, salt and gemstone mining in Pakistan; gold mining in China; gem mining in Sri Lanka.

Most countries in the world have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes the right to protect children from economic exploitation. Human Rights Watch believes boycotting goods produced from these mines is not the solution, as it would adversely affect the economy of these nations. Instead, in accord with U.N. Guiding Principles, it proposes that international companies that buy these products initiate programs to ensure they do not benefit from child labor in any manner. Consumers from developed nations like the U.S. and the U.K., which provide the main markets for these products, should also become more aware of where the products come from. These 10 facts about child miners do not represent all the complexities that involve the lives of child miners. International nonprofit organizations are still working to create awareness and acquire more data on the use of children in the mining industry.

– Jayendrina Singha Ray
Photo: Flickr

Child Laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mineral resources abound in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, yet this apparent blessing has caused the problematic use of child labor in mines. The UNICEF estimates 40,000 child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) mine for the resources enjoyed by the rest of the world.

Recently, human rights activists have protested the employment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s artisanal miners because of reports of extremely poor working conditions. Additionally, the artisanal miners produce an estimated 10 to 25 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt, a mineral necessary for many electronic devices.

The issue of child laborers in the DRC is connected to the country’s poverty in nine ways:

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s colonial past has caused enduring conflict and political stratification, creating avenues for the exploitation of children. The distance between those in power and the Congolese has persisted over the years. King Leopold of Belgium never visited his territory, yet used its resources. Joseph Kabila has been president since 2001 and has refused to leave office. In 2016, he banned public protests to restrict the voice of most Congolese. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s colonial roots have led to unrest, like the civil war from 1997 to 2003. Improving the lives of its citizens has not been a priority, and they remain in poverty and in underpaid, brutal working conditions. In 2014, the country had the highest rate of extreme poverty in the world due in large part to instability from political clashes and the abuse of children.
  1. Current exploitation of children for the world’s supply of cobalt is only the newest indignity in a long history of misuse. Beginning with colonization, this naturally rich country has become poor because so many countries have simply taken what they wanted. For example, its rubber trees fueled the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries. What basically constituted slave labor accomplished the extraction of rubber, a precursor to today’s exploitation of child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fuel technological innovation.
  1. When the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a colony, Belgium failed to regulate education. This left the country undeveloped and at the mercy of exploitative, low paying jobs. Belgium left education to missionaries, whose numbers were too few to educate the majority. Out of a population of 13 million, there were 16 university graduates by 1960, allowing very few Congolese the opportunity to break the cycle of exploitation.
  1. In independence, The Democratic Republic of the Congo still has not prioritized education, funneling more children into the mines. The country’s constitution guarantees a free elementary education, but poverty and instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have allowed very few schools in rural mining areas and with few other options, children as young as four go to work in the mines.
  1. The money children make in the mines often constitutes a primary source of income for their families. Child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo only receive $2 to $3 per day.
  1. Mining causes death, injury and birth defects, propagating the poverty that caused the exploitation of child laborers. From the infants strapped to their mothers’ backs to the children working on their own, miners are exposed to toxic metals that cause breathing problems and birth defects. For example, miners in the southern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were found to have urinary cobalt concentrations that were 43 times the levels found in a control group. Birth defects occur that are so rare they have only ever been found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, no standardized safety equipment or procedures exist. In the resource-rich province of Katanga, an average of 6.6 children die a month from soil collapses caused by deep digging.
  1. The importance of cobalt in modern technology has only worsened exploitation as developed countries continue to take the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s resources. Cobalt is necessary to create lithium-ion batteries found in cell phones, laptops and electric cars. A battery for an electric car can require up to 15,000 grams of lithium-ion. As the most expensive raw material in these new batteries, it follows that cheap labor would be prioritized, leading to the exploitation of children.

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has become economically dependent on these minerals and the children who mine them for little pay. While the country mines a variety of minerals, it is cobalt that the world depends on.
  1. Because the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been politically turbulent and poor, a lack of transparency in cobalt’s global supply chain exists. Cobalt is purchased by Chinese firms in the country and then sold to outside technological manufacturers like Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Tesla, Inc. and Samsung. While law requires American companies to verify the origins of minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, cobalt is not one of the named conflict minerals and thus exempt from this law.

The good news is, as the technology requiring cobalt becomes more prominent, many have protested this exploitation and made positive changes. In addition, here are some positive moves by several large corporations:

  • Apple cut ties with one of its largest artisanal cobalt suppliers because of the abuse of child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Apple claims to internally consider cobalt as a conflict mineral.
  • Microsoft has publicly claimed a lack of tolerance for child labor for its cobalt.
  • Samsung and Tesla claim increased efforts in documenting supply chains.

If these companies continue refusing to condone the exploitation of children in mines, hope exists for child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Congo

Despite its vast material wealth, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has long been a very poor nation. Beneath its surface lies about $24 trillion in minerals, but this treasure has so far done nothing to alleviate poverty in this country. Half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, living on less than $1 a day, especially those in rural communities. There is no single reason, but there are several causes of poverty in Congo that can be identified.

In rural areas, there has often been a lack of investment in basic infrastructure, such as roads, making transportation costs high. Farming methods are often antiquated and inefficient. Finally, there is a general lack of investment on the part of the government and the private sector in rural Congo.

Disease has always been one of the biggest causes of poverty in Congo. There were about 6.7 million reported cases of malaria in 2009, which is especially deadly to children. Cholera outbreaks are frequent. HIV/AIDS affects 5.3 percent of Congolese. Congo’s healthcare system is anemic, with hospitals often understaffed and underequipped.

The mining industry in Congo is particularly corrupt and is one of the largest causes of poverty in Congo. The precious metals mined in the Congo are necessary for a lot of technology taken for granted in the west: smartphones, computers, etc. Many foreign investors in the mining sector end up signing billion-dollar contracts with parties funding armed paramilitary groups, who siphoned some $185 million in 2008 from mining deals. The Congolese army is also dependent on funding from valuable minerals.

There has been some recent pushback against corruption in the Congolese mining industry. #Standwithcongo was launched by activist JD Steir with Robin Wright of House of Cards fame to get mining companies to disclose owners of the offshore shell companies involved with these mining deals.

Additionally, the Congolese army has been successful in pushing back the rebel M23 faction, creating peace in the region and eliminating at least one of the factions that profits from the corrupt mining industry.
The United States has not been silent on the matter either  The U.S. Financial Reform Act, also known as Dodd-Frank, requires companies whose products contain certain minerals to disclose whether or not those minerals came from the Congo, and show what steps they took to ensure such trade was not financing armed groups.  The Department of State has cooperated with Congo’s government and mining sector to establish supply chains for conflict-free minerals being mined in the eastern part of the country.
The causes of poverty in Congo are myriad, but there have been signs of improvement, thanks in part to the actions of the United States, unlikely activists and Congo’s own desire to see a new day.

Andrew Revord
Photo: Flickr

Mining in Malawi: Understanding the Conflict
The relationship between the mining industry and the country of Malawi is burdened with complexity. Mining in Malawi promises substantial economic growth, yet it simultaneously has the potential to violate human rights and destroy the natural ecosystem.

Malawi profits through the mining industry, as the country is rich in economic deposits of uranium. Both Malawian granite and sandstone host uranium reserves, such as the Karoo sandstone in Karonga, Malawi.

The district of Karonga lies on the northwest side of Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is one of the only freshwater lakes on the entire continent of Africa and is a key source of livelihood for over 1.5 million Malawians.

While clearly rich in resources, the country itself is impoverished. Due to this, the government has signed many agreements with extraction companies, hoping to increase exports.

Some national organizations are concerned about the mining industry’s effect on the precious and fragile ecosystem of Lake Malawi, yet the government has prioritized economic interests.

In 2007, a subsidiary of Paladin Energy took interest in Karonga due to a uranium deposit in the district. Due to the immense economic potential of the mine, called Kayelekera, the government agreed to let Paladin extract uranium in 2009. The government was issued 15 percent equity in the subsidiary.

As expected, the mine stimulated a crucial boost to the country’s foreign currency account. Over the following 10 years, the uranium industry overall is expected to raise Malawi’s GDP by 10 percent, account for 30 percent of exports and increase exports by 25 percent.

Due to company promises, many people in Malawi flocked to Karonga, hoping the uranium industry would generate employment, build clinics and increase general infrastructure in the new mining community.

Others, however, were not adequately informed that uranium mining was going to take place around their homes. None were aware that the Kayelekera mine would disrupt their entire way of life.

Reporters from Human Rights Watch conducted research for a year in Karonga, interviewing nearly 80 villagers who had been affected by uranium mining. They found that the general lack of government oversight and corporate responsibility harmed Malawians.

The construction of the Kayelekera mine caused villagers to be evicted from their homes. Many were only notified of the relocation at the last minute. Without any time to find other places to stay, these Malawians found themselves temporarily homeless.

While Paladin did offer compensation for the forced removal, the sum was insufficient to completely cover the cost of buying new land and building a new home. The company offered about MWK 50,000 to each family, which currently equates to about $70.

The uranium mining in Malawi damaged maize crops, dried rice fields and destroyed irrigation channels. As most of the villagers around Karonga live off of subsistence farming, threatened agriculture endangers survival.

Secrecy around the operations of the mine led to Malawian suspicion. When the people in Karonga asked the corporation to test the water for contamination, Paladin claimed to have a monitoring system in place. The company then refused to release any results. This lack of transparency has left many villagers concerned for their health.

As the laws surrounding mining in Malawi have not been updated since the Environmental Management Act of 1996, amendments are well overdue. In order to protect the interests of its citizens, the government of Malawi needs to strengthen regulations over extractive corporations, educate its people about the risks of mining, enforce institutional transparency and take measures to mitigate any damage.

The Kayelekera mine was closed in 2014 for repairs, yet the uranium industry in Malawi is just beginning. Moving forward, the Malawian government needs to enforce corporate responsibility on all companies who wish to extract natural resources from their country.

This conflict over mining in Malawi ignites fundamental questions over the delicate balance between economic development and social responsibility. With a more comprehensive legal framework, the government of Malawi may not have to choose one or the other. After further reform, the government can protect its people while simultaneously fostering social, institutional and economic development.

Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nauru
Located 4,000 km from Sydney, Australia is the smallest island in the world, expanding out 21 square kilometers — this is Nauru. What was once the wealthiest nation on the planet is now in shambles. The country thrived on agriculture and phosphate mining; however, now that all of the phosphate resources were stripped from the island, what remains is a wasteland.

Because of the staggering descent into poverty in Nauru, which is desperate for money, the nation has traded in the phosphate business for migrants. In 2001, Nauru entered into an agreement with Australia in which Nauru would hold refugees trying to enter Australia in return for foreign aid.

How did the wealthiest nation become desperate for foreign aid? After seizing independence from Britain in 1968, the nation’s inhabitants grew extremely wealthy from exporting phosphate. On top of that, the government revoked taxes and gave its inhabitants monthly stipends.

This way of governing provided the people with no incentive to find jobs, start businesses or provide for the economy. The money that was propagated eroded in corruption and poorly executed distribution of investments. By 1980, all the phosphate was basically depleted from the island. Poverty in Nauru increased from there. Now, 80 percent of the island is covered in limestone pinnacles, making it uninhabitable and utterly useless.

Mining in Nauru not only destroyed the land, but also the coastal waters as it has been contaminated due to phosphate runoff. Not only is there poverty in Nauru, but also a serious health crisis. A nation that had once cultivated the land for fresh crops and fished, is now home to some of the most obese and sick people.

In 2007, the World Health Organization Report recounted 94.5 percent of Nauru’s inhabitants as being overweight and 71.7 as being obese. The life expectancy in Nauru is around 50, and Type II diabetes is more prevalent there than in any other place in the world. Most of the population now lives off of prefabricated food shipped from Australia.

Nauru has become dependent on foreign aid mainly from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. A Sydney University geosciences professor by the name of John Connell expressed his belief that the only long-run solution to this crisis is a complete relocation of Nauru’s inhabitants.

However, as of now, the nation is getting some of its income from selling passports to foreign nationals and taking in refugees other countries refuse. In hopes to help with the poverty in Nauru, in 2001, Australia set up the Nauru detention center and provided many of the nation’s inhabitants with jobs. In 2012, Australia set up a second facility, which sparked hope in hearts of the inhabitants — a hope for a better future.

Now that asylums are in high demand due to the excessive numbers of refugees, Nauru’s facilities have been in full swing; however, poverty in Nauru is still very much prevalent. Although it may seem like a dead end, it appears that Australia still insists on using Nauru’s detention center because it is refusing to admit more refugees. This nation’s unusual and destructive past has steered Nauru into an impasse, but the future of the small island still remains unclear.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Tigui CamaraTigui Camara, a former model, is one of the youngest mining executives in Africa and the only woman in Guinea with her own mining company. Given that mining in West Africa is predominately run by middle-aged men, the magnitude of Camara’s success is remarkable.

Camara’s career began on the runway when she was only 14 years old — and soon after escalated into the business world. While living in Morocco, Camara was able to graduate high school early and earn a college degree in business management. Several years later, Camara moved to the U.S. and was hired by a modeling agency in New York.

During her time in the modeling field, Camara made friends with jewelers who had companies in Africa and was inspired to take action. Camara remembers thinking, “If he could do it, I could do it. He is not even from Africa or Guinea, but he has been successful at doing this. Being a native, why can’t I also be successful?”

Camara began saving in order to open her own mining company and she is now the Chairman and CEO of Camara Gold and Mining Network and the CEO of Tigui Mining Group. Her companies acquire and develop mining assets with a focus on gold, diamond and associated minerals.

However, Camara faced setbacks when she hired a business partner who was embezzling the company’s funds for the first year. She also set up her business during a time of political turmoil in Guinea. The country had just undergone a political revolt and 2009 was marked by violent protests and civil unrest.

To make matters worse, Guinea was hit by the Ebola crisis, which began in December 2013 and continued for around two years. It shut down the economy and businesses were hit hard. As a result, Camara stopped all activity until it was safe to return to work.

Finally in recent months, Camara has been able to stabilize the business with proper funding and investors. She claims, “While infrastructure and electricity shortages have created a challenging business environment in the mineral-rich nation, the government is taking steps to improve its industries and encourage foreign investment.”

This provides the U.S. a unique opportunity to purchase gold, diamond and other mineral materials from a deserving business leader. Tigui Camara had to overcome many obstacles in order to get where she is today. Her background in the fashion industry hindered her ability to succeed as an entrepreneur at first but now she has a well-established name and is respected in the mining industry in West Africa.

Megan Hadley

Sources: How We Made it in Africa, Tigui Mining Group, Black Enterprise

Artisanal gold mining is the process of extracting metals from the earth by independent miners, who utilize the mined metal for small-scale independent projects. These miners, or artisans, work independently of mining companies, and are very often non-compliant with regulations pertaining to mining and metallurgy.

Artisanal mining of gold is a significant source of income in low-income countries with noteworthy deposits of gold, such as Colombia and Peru. Mining companies hold the monopoly over most of the gold ore in the areas, and the miners employed by their contractors are not particularly well-paid. Artisanal mining allows for the miner to extract as well as finish the gold product, which gives a higher monetary return than the wage labor in the mines.

Notwithstanding the somewhat uncertain nature of artisanal mining, it employs an estimated 30 million people worldwide, mostly in the developing countries. Some people adopt this practice seasonally as an alternate to farming; in other instances, gold mining is their sole source of livelihood.

Despite the financial incentive of independent mining, the challenges associated with it are substantial as well. The most immediate one of these challenges is the issue of extracting the gold metal from its mined ore. To ensure a decent yield, an effective metallurgy process needs to be used. In absence of industrial purification, the next best alternative is usually the use of mercury extractions.

Mercury extraction of gold was once a popular technique for the metallurgical removal of gold from its ore. It has largely been replaced with other methods now due to its potential for health and environmental hazards. In developing countries, this process is still popular for artisanal mining. The method involves amalgamating gold ore with mercury metal. The gold metal is melted into the mercury, while the impurities are separated. The gold-mercury amalgam is then heated to a high temperature, where the mercury evaporates, and pure gold is left behind.

The method, although effective, uses the highly toxic mercury metal. The evaporation process yields the highly dangerous mercury vapor. The improper handling of mercury in artisanal mining is a major issue for the environment, as well as the health of the miners. Mercury can be inhaled in airborne droplets from the extraction process. The inhalation can cause potentially fatal damage to the lungs, as well as kidney failure, seizures and permanent brain damage. Mercury poisoning in pregnant women can cause long-term cerebral damage to the fetus.

The implications of improper handling of mercury are vast; international regulations encourage the elimination or reduction of mercury usage in metal purification. Nevertheless, almost 400 metric tons of airborne, toxic mercury are produced from gold mining each year. The miners and people in close vicinity of these mines are the ones to face the harshest consequences of mercury pollution. The continued usage of mercury extraction is a manifestation of poverty of resources, both financial and educational, that hinders the safety of artisanal mining.

To eradicate this harmful practice, the World Bank has launched several programs that educate miners to utilize safer, cost-effective methods. These programs facilitate a better selling price and demand for products manufactured through these alternative methods. In a program initiated by the US State Department, 10,000 Peruvian miners were taught alternative metallurgy methods by 2013, and encouraged to sell the ores at a higher price than the amalgamated gold price. These methods successfully decreased the mercury production in the area by 50 percent.

The problem of mercury pollution and the health hazards it poses to artisanal miners in developing countries is one that has garnered much attention globally. Training the miners in better extraction techniques, as well as incentives to trade crude ore can eliminate the problems associated with mercury without damaging the livelihoods of the artisanal miners.

Atifah Safi

Sources: World Bank, Science Direct, Human Rights Watch, EPA
Photo: The Ecologist

South_SudanThe Republic of South Sudan is the newest country in the world, founded in 2011 following a secession from Sudan. The secession resulted from years of bloody civil war in Sudan. However, as recently as 2013, there was a new wave of conflict in South Sudan, with more than two million people displaced from their homes in the past two years. With this conflict, people are unable to maintain agriculture or other jobs, and food prices are rising. The poverty as a result of this conflict is leaving people malnourished and without access to food or clean water. Thankfully, some organizations are coming up with initiatives to improve the lives of the South Sudanese.

Organizations and governments initiated different forms of help for the situation in South Sudan. Some of the main strategies have been promoting peace, increasing access to food and sanitation, and encouraging foreign investment.

Oxfam America, a nonprofit organization aiming to “fix the injustice of poverty,” has initiatives to combat multiple issues caused by poverty and conflict: improve access to clean water, food and sanitation, and promote peace. Some of the response includes rebuilding wells and sanitation facilities for hospitals. In order to further people’s self-sustainability, Oxfam also gives materials to help communities get food, such as seeds and fishing equipment. For Oxfam, initiatives to fix issues caused by poverty is the focus, while for others, the encouragement of international investment is the way to help South Sudan.

South Sudan has mineral deposits and oil reserves. The South Sudanese government is encouraging foreign investors to invest in this sector of the economy. They formed the Investment Protection Act of South Sudan in 2011 to protect the land and intellectual property rights of national and foreign investors.

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, or ACCORD, is a South African organization aiming to relieve conflict in Africa. ACCORD has a South Sudan Initiative, or SSI, which focuses on building and maintaining peace between Sudan and South Sudan, as well as among the South Sudanese citizens. Some of the conflict identification and resolution efforts include “coordinating the efforts to develop a standardized conflict management training toolkit,” and “providing conflict management, mediation, and negotiation trainings for South Sudanese, officials, diplomats” and “United Nations Mission in South Sudan civil affairs officers.”

Some see bolstering the economy as the solution that will better the lives of those in South Sudan, some view access to sanitation and food as the place to start, and some believe peacebuilding techniques will help end the conflict and give way to a healthier, more efficient society. While separately, these initiatives may not combat every issue that exists within the complicated and historical conflict in South Sudan, with all of these initiatives acting simultaneously, a better future for the South Sudanese seems possible.

Rachelle Kredentser

Sources: Accord 1, Accord 2, About, Oxfam America, Oxfam America 2, Goss-Online
Photo: Flickr