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Book review: "Africa’s Blessing, Africa’s Curse: The Legacy of Resource Extraction in Africa"

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

Africa’s Blessing/Africa’s Curse provides a very accessible overview of resource extraction in Africa, with chapters devoted to gold mining, diamonds and the oil industry. Numerous case studies give a human face to the social, cultural and environmental impacts of mining and the struggles of affected communities to have a say in how Africa should best develop its mineral wealth for the benefit of its own people.

Canada’s involvement (and complicity) in resource extraction in Africa is a thread that runs throughout this book. Favourable tax laws on mining investment encourage junior mining companies to list on Canadian stock exchanges. Canadian diplomatic missions in Africa help to bring Canadian mining ventures to Africa on the best possible terms and facilitate meetings between companies and host governments. Canadian laws and regulations are inadequate to punish Canadian companies operating in Africa when they degrade the environment, commit human rights abuses or contribute to social or civil strife. As a prominent player in the resource extraction industry in Africa, Canada needs to ensure that its support of this industry reflects its policy objectives of being a promoter of human rights and human security around the world. Africa’s Blessing, Africa’s Curse concludes with recommendations from Canadian and African civil society organizations for better regulated resource extraction which recognizes the rights of communities to decide if and how mining takes place on their lands.

The book is a good introduction to the mining and oil industry, and would be a useful tool for community education and classroom use. Worksheets on the gold mining process (highlighting the environmental and social at each stage from exploration to reclamation) and on the global diamond industry are features of the book which make the complex world of resource extraction and commodity markets accessible to newcomers to this topic.

Available at $10.00 from:
Kairos – Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
129 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M4V 1N5 Canada
e-mail: orders(at)kairoscanada.org
or on the web