A UNESCO initiative researching the environmental and health impacts of abandoned
mines in sub-Saharan Africa has compiled a map of abandoned mine sites on the continent.
Mapping has been conducted in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DRCongo, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Abandoned mines and mine infrastructure are the cause of many often ignored impacts of mining, including acid mine drainage, subsidence and large-scale disasters that can convert once biodiverse and productive land and water systems into barren, toxified dump sites.
Despite these risks, the mining industry still enjoys limited accountability for its toxic legacy in many places around the planet, with communities, citizens and governments footing the bill both economically and in terms of their health and livelihoods.
The lack of strict financial liability for companies in care of abandoned mines acts as an indirect subsidy to the industry who profit most from mining operations yet are allowed to dump the consequences on others. This is especially concerning as many mine sites require ‘perpetual care and maintenance’ into the future to be safe.
The majority of abandoned mine sites worldwide remain un-mapped, unaccounted for and potentially unsafe. This is the case even in wealthy nations like the USA, which is home to anywhere between 50-500,000 abandoned mine sites.
UNESCO’s new research project will make an important contribution to understanding the threats faced by abandoned mines in Africa. We believe it will further emphasise the fact that, when all scales of impact are taken into account, mining burdens communities, citizens and governments more than it benefits them economically speaking, contributing to the resource curse.
To read more about the legacy of mining, particularly on agricultural land, read The Gaia Foundation’s UnderMining Agriculture Report.