New project shines light on impact of African mining boom

ICIJ’s latest collaboration reveals deaths, conflicts and questionable practices by Australian mining companies across Africa.

A major new regional investigation by ICIJ, its parent organization the Center for Public Integrity,  African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR)and more than a dozen African journalists has for the first time revealed in detail the vast – and in some cases deadly – footprint Australian mining companies are leaving across Africa. 

One of the biggest collaborations of journalists across the continent and ICIJ’s first major Africa-based project, Fatal Extraction shines a light on how Australian-listed mining companies are linked to hundreds of deaths and alleged injustices which wouldn’t be tolerated in better-regulated nations. 

The 18-month investigation has brought together data and records from Australia and Africa in a way that hasn’t been done before, combining corporate information from the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) with months of work by reporters around Africa, digging through dusty public documents and finding victims and witnesses who have never spoken to media before. 

The findings of the investigation draw a more comprehensive picture of Australia’s significant mining presence in Africa and how the industry impacts people in ways that are rarely heard outside their own communities.

The project includes print, online, radio and multimedia news organizations from the United States, Australia, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. Reporters traveled thousands of miles to remote mine sites and obtained exclusive documents outlining government investigations, court filings and community petitions.

“Australia is one of the largest players in African mining but, until now and unlike companies from Canada and China, its track record has gone largely unnoticed,” said ICIJ lead reporter Will Fitzgibbon. “We hope our reporting will give voice to those affected by mining but whose stories rarely make it back to Australian boardrooms and shareholders.”

“Fatal Extraction is commendable for its rigorous reporting on a corporate nationality that has, as a collective study, been less visible on Africa's radar,” says Khadija Sharife from ANCIR, which provided financial and editorial services to many of ICIJ’s reporting partners.

“The result [is] talented African journalists taking center stage and representing their own investigations in equal partnership with ICIJ. Local publications are prioritized from Senegal to Botswana. Systems such as ANCIR's iLab – a virtual hub – are used to ensure that journalists have access to a world class team including multi-language editors, data and prosecutorial experts, among others. ICIJ must be applauded for investing trust and removing barriers that characterise previous Africa partnerships.”

The collaboration was made possible thanks to the generous support of Australian philanthropist and businessman Graeme Wood, as well as grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and Natural Resource Governance Institute.

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