Extractive industries - in depth

Many developing countries have large reserves of natural resources, including oil, gas, coal, gold, copper and other mining products. These resources should contribute to the capacity of these countries to develop their economies, through, for example, exports, job creation, and revenue reinvestment in other sectors.

The reality, however, is very different. Decades of irresponsible mining and oil and gas exploration have produced devastating effects in many developing countries, on local environments and communities, and on the climate:

  • Gas flares in Nigeria, Russia, Middle East, Kazakhstan and other areas of oil extraction burn constantly, emitting thousands of tonnes of toxic emissions. This results in high levels of atmospheric pollution, which damages crops, and causes severe health problems.Oil and gas pipeline construction damage the environment and exhausts scarce resources, such as land, fishing grounds or forests, which are critical for the livelihood of local populations.
  • Pipeline construction in developing countries correlates with an increase of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and social problems such as prostitution and human trafficking.
  • Oil refineries and oil depots continuously fail to live up to environmental, health and safety standards.
  • Onshore and offshore drilling platforms and artificial islands in, for example, the Niger River Delta, the Amazon River, the Congo's rainforests, the Caspian Sea and the North Sea, have damaging impacts on biodiversity.
  • Thousands of hectares of Canadian boreal forest are being cut down to allow for tar sands exploration in Alberta. The process of oil refining from tar sands produces three to five times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.
  • In the US, the process of extracting shale gas, known as hydraulic fracking, has led to groundwater contamination with toxic chemicals, as well as high levels of radioactivity.

International and private financial institutions continue to co-finance the investments of major fossil fuel companies, despite their well-documented and destructive impacts on people and planet. These investments undermine institutional commitments to social and environmental sustainability criteria, poverty reduction, development and renewable energy.

Friends of the Earth Europe works to expose cases where energy companies fail to fulfil these requirements, or flout international and local laws and standards, as well as their own codes of conduct. We aim to uncover the inconsistencies between the promises and the practices, to raise awareness about the impacts of the extractive industry on development, poverty and the environment, and to ensure that the financing of the extractive industries is transparent, accountable and makes a positive contribution.

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