Australian mining companies linked to hundreds of deaths across Africa

Alleged injustices wouldn't be tolerated in better-regulated nations

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 Updated:

Caldwell Sichinga barely survived when a seven-meter steel tank exploded in 2009 on Paladin Africa’s mine site in Malawi. Two other subcontractors died in the blast. Mr. Sichinga is seeking compensation and has filed a negligence claim in the Malawi High Court against Paladin and the contractor who employed him.

Will Fitzgibbon/Center for Public Integrity

Australian mining companies are linked to hundreds of deaths and injuries in Africa, which can go unreported at home.

Some of the Australian Securities Exchange-listed companies include state governments as shareholders. One company recorded 38 worker deaths over an eleven-year period.

Australia has more publicly-traded mining companies with interests in Africa – more than 150 at the end of 2014 in 33 countries – than resource rivals including Canada and China.

In Malawi, litigation continues against Paladin Africa Limited, a subsidiary of Perth-based Paladin Energy, and its subcontractor after an explosion disfigured one worker with such heat that his skin shattered when touched by rescuers. Two others died in the same incident. 

Other allegations include employees in South Africa hacking a woman with a machete and Malian police killing two protesters after a mine worker reportedly asked authorities to dislodge a barricade on the road to the mine. 

View our unique multimedia report, Fatal Extraction: Australian mining in Africa

An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (www.icij.org), a project of the Center for Public Integrity, in collaboration with 13 African reporters, uncovered locally-filed lawsuits, violent protests and community petitions criticizing some Australian companies. 

In all, reporters counted more than 380 employees, subcontractors and community members in 13 countries who died in accidents or incidents linked to the companies since the beginning of 2004, including some who were shot to death. More were horribly disfigured or injured while working at Australian mines or during community protests against them.

The companies involved deny that they were responsible for any of the incidents.

But Tracey Davies, an attorney with the Centre for Environmental Rights in Cape Town, South Africa, says she has seen a pattern of poor behavior by Australian mining companies, a sentiment echoed by employees, villagers, tribal leaders, members of parliament and activists across Africa.

"There is a very strong perception that when Australian mining companies come here,” she said, “they take every advantage of regulatory and compliance monitoring weaknesses, and of the huge disparity in power between themselves and affected communities, and aim to get away with things they wouldn't even think of trying in Australia.”

Continue reading the story on ICIJ.org.

This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Pultizer Center for Crisis Reporting.

    

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