Africa – Resource Plunder


A new report documents the scale of British involvement in mineral extraction across the continent. 

According to a new ‘War on Want‘ report entitled ‘The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources‘ a total of 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) are involved in mining operations in Africa, controlling resources worth US$1 trillion.

The report documents how, under the guise of economic development, around $134bn is channeled to the continent each year in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid, while concurrently around $192bn is extracted largely through profits of foreign companies, tax dodging and the costs associated with climate change. The African continent is by and large a net creditor to the rest of the world of around $58bn each year.

At least five British government officials have taken up positions on the boards of mining companies working in Africa, and companies such as Glencore have revenues ten times the GDP of Zambia.  The 101 companies cited in the report control around 6.6bn barrels of oil, 79.5m ounces of Gold, 699.3m carats of diamonds and 3.6bn tonnes of coal, controlling concession areas totalling around 371,132km2.

The report also documents the disregard for human rights. For example in the Western Sahara, despite the Saharwi people’s right to self-determination, six British companies have been handed permits by the Moroccan government to actively explore for oil and gas resources.

One company working in the Western Sahara is Cairn Energy, based in Edinburgh and listed on the LSE, which in December 2014 became the first to drill for and discover oil off the coast of the disputed region.

The Saharawi people have consistently protested against the exploration activities of oil companies, but by doing deals with the Moroccan government, oil companies have gained access to these reserves. According to the report, the British government has actively championed them through trade, investment and tax policies.


Screenshot of War on Want report. 

War on Want state that while LSE registered companies control resources across the continent, countries such as South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Lesotho. In South Africa the wealth from platinum, gold, coal, iron ore, nickel and aluminium is substantially in the hands of British companies.

As Chris Molebatsi of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) in South Africa, says: “We want to see ethical mining that has respect for the land rights of the people on whose land they are mining. Our demands are for royalties and/or compensation to be paid to communities affected and in particular prior and informed consent to be obtained from those communities, not just from traditional authorities”, reported African Arguments.

Additionally of the 101 companies operating, a quarter are reportedly operating in tax havens raising considerable concerns about tax avoidance; it is estimated that the African continent loses around $35bn each year due to illicit financial flows and $46bn from siphoned profits.

The report concludes that, we “need to be demanding that the British government enforces corporate accountability of British companies operating in Africa. These companies should not be allowed to get away with the labour violations, human rights abuses and environmental degradation that is currently taking place.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

GOLD: DR Congo
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21368A–21368C

IRON ORE: Guinea
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.6, Pp. 21331B–21332C

URANIUM: Namibia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.10, Pp.21046B–21047C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.