Business is booming.

How Africa’s apes and other wildlife are losing habitat due to mining

Africa’s great apes—gorillas, bonobos, and chimpanzees—are facing an alarming threat: the rapid expansion of mining projects.

As the world’s demand for critical minerals grows, these majestic creatures are losing their habitats to industrial mining activities.

A recent study sheds light on the extent of this crisis and highlights the urgent need for conservation efforts.

Africa is experiencing an unprecedented mining boom, driven by the demand for minerals essential to clean energy technologies.

While the continent holds approximately 30% of the world’s mineral resources, less than 5% of global mineral exploitation has occurred in Africa so far. This untapped potential presents both economic opportunities and ecological challenges.

The study, published in *Science Advances*, estimates that over one-third of Africa’s entire ape population—nearly 180,000 individuals—is at risk due to mining activities.

These critical minerals, such as copper, lithium, nickel, and cobalt, are essential for the transition to cleaner energy sources. However, their extraction often leads to deforestation of tropical rainforests where the apes reside.

Using data from operational and preoperational mining sites across 17 African nations, researchers identified significant overlaps between high ape density areas and mining zones. In particular, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Guinea have pronounced overlaps between mining areas and great ape habitats.

One major challenge is the lack of transparency in the mining sector. Mining companies are not required to make biodiversity data publicly available, making it difficult to assess the true impact on biodiversity and great apes. The scarcity of studies assessing the threat of mining to global biodiversity further complicates the situation.

The study emphasizes the importance of transparency and data sharing. Mining companies should provide environmental data to inform conservation efforts and mitigate damage.

Avoidance measures during the exploration phase are crucial, but this phase remains poorly regulated. Baseline data collection often occurs after significant habitat destruction, making it challenging to assess the original state of great ape populations before mining began.

In West Africa, where numerous mining areas overlap with fragmented ape habitats, urgent action is needed. Increased accessibility to environmental data within the mining sector is essential for understanding the complex interactions between mining, climate, biodiversity, and sustainability.

Companies operating in these areas must adopt mitigation and compensation schemes to minimize their impact on great apes and their habitats.

Collaborative efforts, including sharing valuable ape survey data, will help comprehensively gauge the true extent of mining activities’ effects on these remarkable creatures. Only through such collective action can we protect Africa’s great apes and preserve their habitats for generations to come.

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