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  • +254 700 614290/+233 54 109 8521/+223 95 07 07 09

The essence of Britain’s economic intervention in Africa has remained unchanged since the days of slavery and colonialism

The essence of Britain’s economic intervention in Africa has remained unchanged since the days of slavery and colonialism

British imperialism is notorious in history as one of the main plunderers of Africa’s wealth from the days of slavery and colonialism. Despite its determined efforts to turn reality on its head and present itself as a force which allegedly “gives Africa aid”, the facts demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that Britain remains a parasite on Africa’s economy. A recently published War on Want study, entitled, “The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources” provides further proof, if any was needed, of the damaging effects of Britain’s economic intervention in Africa.

The study focuses on the activities of 101monopolies which are listed on the London Stock Exchange, operate in 37 African countries and between them “control over $1 trillion worth of Africa’s most valuable resources”, including gold, platinum, diamonds, copper, oil, gas and coal. These monopolies control entire branches of the economies of different African countries, thereby making them the key decision makers in these sectors. In this way, African independence is negated and it becomes impossible for African governments to formulate any coherent economic policy aimed at addressing the challenges of social and economic development on the continent.

The report outlines how these monopolies operate in some of the key mining sectors in Africa:

Oil
In the oil sector, as many as 27 LSE-listed companies are working in 27 sub-Saharan African countries. This includes long-standing oil producing countries such as Nigeria and Angola but also countries where discoveries have recently been made such as Kenya and Ghana.

The major companies include Anglo-Irish corporation Tullow Oil, which controls 307 million barrels of oil in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and describes itself as ‘Africa’s leading independent oil company’; and Shell, whose licences control 691 million barrels, mainly in Nigeria. Also important is Glencore, a company incorporated in Jersey and best known as a giant commodity trader, but which also controls 175 million barrels of oil in Cameroon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea.

But some lesser-known companies have also become important in Africa. For example, Madagascar Oil, a company incorporated in Bermuda but whose corporate office is in London, has interests in five oil blocks in western Madagascar, including the Tsimiroro block, which contains a massive 1.7 billion barrels. Chariot Oil & Gas, registered in Guernsey, holds interests in oil blocks in offshore Mauritania and Namibia worth 900 million barrels to the company. Another major player is Genel Energy, a company registered in Jersey, which states that it ‘is targeting 2 billion barrels of oil’ in Somaliland.

South Africa’s Marikana Platinum mine, owned by London based Lonmin Plc and scene of the 2012 shooting of striking miners.
Gold
In the gold sector, 30 LSE-listed companies are operating in 21 sub-Saharan African countries. The big players are Acacia Mining Plc and Randgold Resources. Acacia, a  British company which is part of the Canadian group Barrick Gold Corporation, controls 12.5 million ounces of gold and is the leading gold producer in Tanzania, where it operates three mines. Acacia holds licences covering over 6,000 km2 of land around its gold mining projects in Tanzania, Kenya, Burkina Faso and Mali. Randgold, a company incorporated in Jersey, owns and operates five gold mines in Africa and has exploration projects in Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its gold mines contain 24.6 million ounces of gold, worth $36.9 billion.

Smaller gold companies include the British firms Avocet Mining (which controls 7 million ounces of gold in Burkina Faso and Guinea), Amara Mining (which says it has ‘the largest resource base of any London listed junior gold mining company with over nine million ounces of resources’, mainly in Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone) and Pan African Resources (whose mines in South Africa contain 10 million ounces of gold).

Diamonds
Africa’s diamonds are held by just two LSE listed companies — Anglo American and Petra Diamonds. British mining giant Anglo American, via its subsidiary De Beers, controls 316 million carats of diamonds through its African operations. It produces around a third of the world’s rough diamonds by value. De Beers is well known as the world’s leading diamond company with mines in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Petra Diamonds, incorporated in Bermuda, controls 309 million carats of diamonds from four producing mines in South Africa and one in Tanzania (the latter being Tanzania’s only important diamond producer). Eight smaller LSE-listed diamond companies also operate in Africa. For example, British company Firestone Diamonds Plc owns 75% of the Liqhobong diamond mine in Botswana, where full production was expected by mid-2016. This mine alone has a total resource of 23 million carats, worth $4.4 billion. In South Africa, DiamondCorp Plc operates the Lace Diamond Mine south of Johannesburg, which contains 13.4 million carats. Another British company, Stellar Diamonds Plc, is developing diamond mines in Guinea and Sierra Leone containing 7.8 million carats.

Coal
In addition to its dominant role in diamonds, Anglo American controls 659 million tonnes of ‘saleable’ coal in South Africa, where it wholly owns and operates seven thermal coal mines and holds a majority shareholding in another. Glencore owns 43-100% of nine coal operations in South Africa, consisting of 25 mines containing 901 million tonnes of thermal coal. Other significant coal producers are Sable Mining — which mainly produces coal in two projects in Zimbabwe containing a massive 1.8 billion tonnes of coal — and Bushveld Minerals, which is exploring for coal in Madagascar in a project containing 136 million tonnes, one of only three thermal coal resources in the country. The fact that nine LSE-listed companies collectively control 3.6 billion tonnes of coal in Africa makes these companies significant environmental polluters and contributors to climate change. In 2014, the UK consumed 48.5 million tonnes of coal yet LSE-listed companies in Africa control 74 times as much.

Platinum
Africa’s platinum wealth is concentrated overwhelmingly in South Africa, where it is largely controlled by Anglo American and Lonmin Plc. Anglo American controls 200 million ounces of platinum from over a dozen mines in South Africa. Indeed, it provides 40% of the world’s newly mined platinum, making it Africa’s, and the world’s, largest producer of platinum group metals. Lonmin, notorious for the Marikana massacre in 2012, controls 42.9 million ounces of platinum from its mines in South Africa, principally from its Marikana mine, which contains 35 million ounces of platinum. Another significant player is British company Jubilee Platinum, which has a majority stake in the Tjate project in South Africa containing the world’s largest undeveloped defined block of platinum ore. Tjate contains a potential 65 million ounces of platinum group elements and gold.

Other minerals
LSE-listed companies play a key role in other commodities in Africa. For example:

  • British companies dominate Africa’s copper industry, notably in Zambia.
  • Sierra Rutile Ltd owns the world’s only large, high-grade producing primary rutile mine, covering 876 km2 of Sierra Leone together with exploration licences.
  • Rio Tinto’s mineral sands/ilmenite project in southern Madagascar contains nearly 70 million tons of ilmenite, accounting for around 10% of the world market for the mineral.
  • British company Gemfields Plc owns the Montepuez ruby deposit in Mozambique, believed to be the largest known ruby concession in the world. It also owns the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, the single largest emerald mine in the world which in 2013 produced 30 million carats of emerald and beryl, roughly 20% of global production. Gemfields also owns 50% of the Kariba amethyst mine in Zambia, one of the world’s largest producing amethyst mines

The stranglehold of this small group of British registered monopolies over Africa’s mineral wealth which is exemplified in this War on Want report demonstrates the destructive impact of British economic intervention in Africa. It is time to end Britain’s economic intervention in Africa which is, in fact, the source of its political, military and ideological intervention in the continent.


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