Extractive Industries in West and Central Africa

Nature & Poverty Issues


The IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN NL) has published a poster map on the oil and mining activities in West and Central Africa. The map gives a complete overview of more than one hundred major oil and mining sites in the region. On the poster one can find a general summary of the potential impact of oil and mining activities on biodiversity and local economies.

Also an overview of the existing initiatives to promote sustainability and transparency in the extractive industry sector is given. It concludes with specific recommendations for all stakeholders including governments, civil society and the financial sector. The map was recently distributed among local non-governmental organisations in the region and in the Netherlands.

SEAPRISE CEESP kindly contributed to this publication with a view on the issue of offshore oil storage. This map has been produced by IUCN NL under the auspices of the joint nature and poverty* programme of IUCN NL, WWF and Friends of the Earth by consulting extractive companies, research institutes and non-governmental organizations. Besides CEESP also the international campaign Fatal Transactions contributed with their view on the Kimberley Process concerning the (illegal) trade in diamonds.

In the past decade, West and Central Africa experienced an extensive increase in oil and mining activities. Rising commodity market prices enabled exploration in previously untouched areas. Asian and Latin American companies have entered the region starting a decline in the traditional dominance of European and American companies. In recent years, West and Central African countries have entered large trade and investment agreements with China. These billion dollar deals often lack the environmental and social criteria of similar agreements with, for instance the World Bank or the EU. These deals are favourable for African governments who seek less foreign interference and often establish infrastructure that facilitates economic development but they also harbour risks for biodiversity and local livelihoods. Changing circumstances ask for a renewed analyses and changed policies. This publication aims at providing guidance on this changed situation.

Although the recent global economic crisis has caused commodity prices to decline experts like Dr Fatih Birol Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently stated that as soon the economy recovers the demand for oil is expected to return to a pre-crisis level, pushing up the oil price as well. Other extractive commodities like for example coal, iron and phosphate will experience the same market price surge from economic recovery. So in the future the pressure of extractive industry activities on the ecosystems and livelihoods in West and Central Africa will persist. This situation requires close attention of all stakeholders. Extractive industry operations of all sizes have impacts on biodiversity, economies and societies. Such impacts can be significant and negative, while well planned and well-managed extractive industry projects may co-exits with biodiversity, and livelihoods, and support local economies. By giving specific recommendations for all stakeholders including governments, civil society and the financial sector IUCN NL points out criteria for well-managed extractive industry projects that promotes nature conservation and support local livelihoods. Therefore the map not only contributes to raising awareness but is also suitable as a policy making tool.

A digital copy of the map can be found by clicking here.

If you have any questions or you would like to receive paper copies you can contact Carl Königel at IUCN NL, email: carl.konigel@iucn.nl or 00 31 20 626 17 32.