Iridium and Outer Space: harnessing the elements for the advantaged

The element iridium is more likely to be found in Solar System asteroids than in the Earth’s crust. Yet a Yorkshire, England, chemist identified the element in 1803. He found it in the residues from the solution of platinum ores. His name was Smithson Tennant.

In 1801 Tennant worked with a colleague, Wollaston on a 186 kg mass of Columbia platinum ore (‘platina’) (3). In outline, platinum is soluble in aqua regia, a mixture of concentrated nitric and hydrochloric acids. When platina is dissolved in aqua regia, a highly coloured solution and a black residue are obtained, indicating the impurities in the ore. Tennant fused the insoluble residue with alkali at high temperature and dissolved the resulting cooled solid in water, producing a further black solid and a yellow solution. The yellow solution was probably a basic form of osmium tetroxide, OsO4. The black solid was further treated with hydrochloric acid, the solid produced was fused with caustic soda and further treatment with acid obtained red crystals. These are most likely to have been Na2[IrCl6]·nH2O. On heating these, a white powder of an unknown element was obtained, which was later identified as iridium. The Royal Society’s Copley Medal was awarded to Tennant on his 43rd birthday, 30th November 1804, to mark the intricate experimentation that lay behind these isolations.”From https://www.technology.matthey.com/article/55/3/196-200/

Now chemists were able to list iridium in their table of elements with the symbol Ir and atomic number 77. Natural iridium often contains distinct amounts of Os,( osmiridium) Ru (ruthenosmiridium) or Pt.

The definition of iridium now incorporates old “osmiridium” and “ruthenosmiridium” mineral species (all have Ir as the dominant element).

Geologists of the 21st century could refer to iridium when exploring the impact of a massive asteroid, 65 million years ago, in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.  

They had located carbon cenospheres deposited when the asteroid hit next to a thin layer of the element iridium. The iridium-laden dust is believed to be the shattered remains of the 200-km-wide asteroid’s impact. 

Iridium is one of the rarest elements in Earth’s crust, with annual production and consumption of only three tonnes. It is found in meteorites and thus the mining of iridium is in areas which have historically been impacted by meteorites. It is also commercially obtained as a byproduct of nickel refining.


There was an asteroid event 2.15 million years ago. It has been named the ‘Eltanin asteroid collision’. After the research vessel Eltanin. An Eltanin impactor 4 km in diameter would have blown an initial cavity as deep as the ocean and 60 km wide into the South Pacific and delivered a 200–300 m high tsunami to the Antarctic Peninsula and the southern tip of South America 1200–1500 km away.
From Wikipedia:
The possible impact site was first discovered in 1981 as an iridium anomaly in sediment cores collected by the research vessel Eltanin, after which the site and impactor are named. Later studies were done by the vessel Polarstern. Sediment at the bottom of the five km (3 mi) deep ocean in the area had an iridium enrichment, a strong sign of extraterrestrial contamination. Possible debris from the asteroid is spread over an area of 500 km2 (190 sq mi). Sediments from the Eocene and Paleocene were jumbled and deposited again chaotically. Also mixed in were melted and fragmented meteorite matter. The area near the Freeden Seamounts over 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi) has a meteorite material surface density of 10–60 kg/m2 (2.0–12.3 lb/sq ft). Of this, 87% is melted and 13% only fragmented. This area is the region of the Earth’s surface with the highest known density of meteorite material coverage.

The disturbed sediment had three layers. The lowermost layer SU IV is a chaotic mixture of crumbled sediments in the form of a breccia. Above this is layer SU III consisting of layered sand deposited from turbulently flowing water. Above this is SU II layer with meteorite fragments and graded silt and clay that settled out of still but dirty water. “

Today, the much in demand platinum metals, the six platinum-group elements (PGMs) — platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium — are mainly produced in South Africa, but they are across the globe in South America.

Platinum was first discovered in South America in 1735, and the rivers along the west coast of the continent are rich in the metal. In fact, all platinum came from South America until about 1820, when explorers found deposits in Russia and South Africa.

Discovery of the Wilkes Land mass crater, is a type of fingerprint indicating the impact of an asteroid four to five times larger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

The scientists who discovered the anomaly have suggested that this asteroid could be responsible for the worst mass extinction in our planet’s history, and may also have initiated the breakup of the supercontinent, Gondwana. See https://newstarget.com/2017-01-20-massive-strange-anomaly-discovered-under-the-frozen-ice-of-antarctica.html

This was when what we know today as South Africa and South America were once joined in the landmass named Gondwana. That today we have major platinum mining companies active in these now separate continents should therefore come as no surprise.

Iridium applications:

  • Since Ir is resistant to corrosion, it is mixed with osmium to produce alloys used in pen tips and compass bearings. 
  • Standard meter bars, crucibles and spark plug contacts prepared from a mixture of 10% iridium and 90% platinum have a high melting point and low reactivity 
  • Iridium-192, a radioactive isotope of the metal, is a potential therapy for prostate cancer Ir implants can be used in the radiotherapy of breast cancer
  • Iridium combined with platinum have been made into electrodes that may have the potential to manage hearing impairment.

Smithson Tennant would never have anticipated the applications for his identified iridium. But he was educated to a sufficient level to place him above the ‘masses’ in 1803. He would already be respected by those who would never receive an education, and he was contributing to the technological developments which we hail for their brilliance. We can always see a benefit to the quality of life for those in richer nations, but those benefits do not reach those at the brutal edge of making those benefits possible – those who constitute cheap labour. That can’t be right in the 21st century.

Miners striking in South African Platinum Mines

On 4 December 2007, the Union went on strike to protest working conditions in South Africa’s mines. The strike was spurred on by a rise in worker fatalities from 2006 to 2007, despite a government plan in October to reduce fatalities. Less than 5% of mineworkers came to work on that day.

It is estimated that between the 12th and the 14th of August about nine people (at least four miners, two police officers and two security guards) were killed in the area around Marikana – though there is conflicting reports on who killed whom during these dates.

On 16 August, police opened fire on a group of miners who had gathered on a hill near Nkaneng, at least 34 people were killed at Marikana, 78 were injured and 259 were arrested. The miners were carrying machetes and had refused a request to disarm. According to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, police had first used tear gas, water cannons and then used “live ammunition”. The killings have been labelled a massacre throughout the media with police, Lonmin and NUM itself being blamed.

In 2012, an image of some of the 12,000 miners sacked from the Anglo American Platinum mine near Rustenburg.


What this meant to the mining industry:

In South Africa 2014 – https://www.miningreview.com/news/infographic-platinum-mining-in-south-africa-stats/

The rage of those forced into cheap labour work involves longtime struggles and low pay faced by miners in South Africa whose economy depends on harnessing their energies to mine these precious minerals from the ground. A lot of human energy, for little pay and a tiny amount of ultimately refined platinum as a result.

Cheap labour is exploited globally to ensure expansion of corporate activities. Corporates have ensured they are backed by the laws of the land where they hold assets. These laws are backed by brutal modes of silencing opposition, or quiet coercion. The end game is to satisfy shareholders they will receive regular dividends. 

This is where we are in the 21st century. We are stuck in the wheel of ever decreasing returns as diminishing natural resources are ripped from the Earth to try and maintain the guise of momentum. We do not, with all our so called ‘superior intelligence’ to other life forms, seem to be able to step back from this old model of theft of natural resources. We could develop rejuvenating rather than destructive activities. We could enable all human beings to become independent contributors to this process. We seem to be using very little brain power to end the repetitive cycle of harm to the Planet and harm to each other.

Old habits die hard:


Lino cut of coal miners of 19th Century Britain

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The 19th century European Curse across Africa: Part Two

To understand the influence of a little country (Belgium) over another 80 times as big as it, (the Congo in Africa) I had to read the history. Coming from Britain, I knew too well of our tiny size but the dominant and aggressive role we have played in recent world history.


……..”After a series of incidents, the revolution erupted in Brussels in 1830. William I sent in his troops, but they were expelled on September 27th, 1830. The rebels received support from volunteers outside the city. Following this rising Belgium separated from the Northern Netherlands. A provisional government declared independence on October 4th, 1830. On November 3rd of the same year, a National Congress was elected by an electorate of 30,000 men, who paid a given level of taxes or who had special qualifications. On February 7th, 1831 the national congress adopted a constitution which, for its time, was very progressive. 

A diplomatic conference on the future of Belgium opened in London on the November 4th. The great powers of the time recognised the secession of Belgium from the (Northern) Netherlands. Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg became the first King of the Belgians (1831 – 1865). In 1865 he was succeeded by his son Leopold II (1865 – 1909). Under their reign Belgium became the second most important industrial power.” 

Source: https://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/country/history/belgium_from_1830

Belgium itself, is a small country in northwest Europe that joined Europe’s race for colonies in the late 19th century.

Many European countries wanted to colonize distant parts of the world in order to exploit the resources and “civilize” the inhabitants of these less-developed countries. Britain and Germany often contested territory. 

In 1884-1885, the Berlin West Africa Conference effectively divided up the African continent amongst the Great Powers of Europe. Attended by the colonial powers of Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Belgium, among others, the Conference created artificial state boundaries as well as a colonial system that was in effect for the next sixty years. 

Among these territories, the Congo was a unique case. Granted to King Leopold II of Belgium, the Congo was a “personal” concession for the King, rather than a colony. The King, not the Belgian government, effectively owned and controlled the Congo.

The drawing and redrawing of territory continued over time. For example:

Extract below is from https://ntz.info/gen/n00796.html

Anglo-German Partition Agreement

In 1886 colonial rivalry between Britain and Germany flared up again and a fresh Anglo-German Partition Agreement clearly defined German and British spheres of influence. A straight line traced between Kenya and Tanganyika along the actual boundaries divided the territories. North of the line, Kenya and Uganda went to England. The Southern part together with Ruanda-Urundi to the west went to Germany: this gave birth to German East Africa. Germany seized the occasion to reduce the mainland possessions of Sultan Barghash of Zanzibar to a 16 km wide coastal strip, keeping free access to all ports.

German East Africa 1886-1918

TANGANYIKA as a geographical and political entity did not take shape before the period of High Imperialism; it’s name only came into use after German East Africa was transferred to Britain as a mandate by the League of Nations in 1920. What is referred to here therefore is the history of the region that was to become Tanganyika. 

German CARL Peters had secured treaties with tribal leaders on East Africa’s coast, providing the German government with legitimation to negotiate with Britain over spheres of interest in East Africa. In the treaty of 1886, Germany renounced it’s claims on the WITU AREA (on Kenya’s coast, north of Mombasa) and on Uganda, and Britain recognized Germany’s claim to what was to become German East Africa. In another treaty of 1890, Germany traded the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba for the much smaller island of Heligoland, off Germany’s coast in the North Sea. The Germans bought off the Sultan of Zanzibar’s rights to the Tanganyikan coast for $ 800,000. 

The German East Africa COMPANY (founded 1887, succeeded by the German government in 1891) established BAGAMOYO as their colony’s capital, soon moving it to DARESSALAAM. The colony was called DEUTSCH-OSTAFRIKA (German East Africa). The colony’s borders had been established in treaties with Britain (Kenya, Uganda, Northern Rhodesia), Belgium (Belgian Congo) and Portugal (Mocambique); interests of the indigenous people were disregarded. From the coast, the Germans penetrated the country and established their rule. The currency was 1 Rupia = 64 Pesa.”

So the misery of the Africans deepened as Europeans redrew their “ownership” and deepened the sadness and resentment, and huge suffering of most native Africans.

The sense of superiority of white humans over black was clear cut by the mostly army and ex army new arrivals. Those who had felt downtrodden in their own lives maybe felt empowered to carry out bullying tactics they had learned from their own experience. The whites reinforced their sense of superiority every time they made a native African suffer and were rewarded by their superiors for their indifference. For small bribes, they could attract the services of some Africans to do their dirty work for them. They could convince some, such as the tall Tutsi Chiefs, to be complicit in their abusive control. The end result was to turn previously good relationships between native Africans into fearful, resentful, damaging historical memories.

War brutalises men and methods of inflicting pain were known to them which no African had knowledge of until they became the target of western weapons, land grabs, torching of villages, theft of animals, slaughter, rape, maiming of people and animals and so on.

Image of King Leopold II


Said to be one of the “deadliest dictators in history, King Leopold II (https://gohighbrow.com/leopold-ii-of-belgium/) of Belgium was responsible for exploiting Africa and her inhabitants to supply rubber and ivory to meet the demand in Europe.  In 1885 the Belgian parliament agreed that Leopold II should become the head of state of the Congo. In 1908 control of Congo was transferred to the Belgian state. The inhabitants of the Congo suffered terrible injustices during at least 25 years under Leopold II.

Belgium gained independence in 1830. Then, King Leopold II came to power in 1865 and believed that colonies would greatly enhance Belgium’s wealth and prestige. In reality, he saw the chance for personal wealth, but disguised his aims to attract loans for his venture in Africa. Leopold’s private police force, the Force Publique, terrorized and exploited Congo, largely in secrecy. 

King Leopold sent the Welshman explorer Henry Morton Stanley to the region. Stanley successfully made treaties with native tribes, set up military posts, and forced most Muslim slave traders out of the region. He acquired millions of square kilometers of central African land for Belgium.

This was a gendarmerie and military force that existed from 1885 through the period of direct Belgian colonial rule (1908-1960). In early 1886 Captain Léon Roger was sent to Congo Free State to establish the force, under which he was promoted to “Commandant of the Force Publique.” Along with Roger, a number of Belgian officers and non-commissioned officers were dispatched to the territory and formed the nucleus of the officer corps.

All of the officers of the Force Publique were white, but were comprised of a mixture of Belgian regular soldiers as well as mercenaries. There are always poor people who will accept the wages, uniform and diabolical orders of the incoming bullies in their homeland.  In this part of Africa they were known as Askari. (An askari (from Swahili: Askari, means: soldier, or military) was a local soldier serving in the armies of the European colonial powers in Africa, particularly in the African Great Lakes, Northeast Africa and Central Africa.)

Although officials always denied it, there were continual charges that, in order to terrorize its enemies, the Force Publique went out of its way to recruit cannibals. An English visitor to the Congo in the 1890s, E.S. Grogan, described Force Publique recruits as “degraded and vice-sodden cannibals” and charged that their officers expected them to supply themselves with food and clothing through “commandeering” or looting. During the Arab wars of the 1890s, Force Publique officers admitted that there were outbreaks of cannibalism in their forces, but claimed that this was the work of irregulars. Since these mercenaries were not subject to army discipline, wrote the authors of the official history of the Force Publique, “it was impossible to stop them from eating a certain number of victims after each battle”.

The Force Publique increased its numbers tenfold in the first decade of its existence, largely because of the requirements of the Arab wars. By 1898 it boasted nearly 20,000 men (although numbers plummeted thereafter, with the collapse of Leopold’s plans to occupy the southern Sudan). The army maintained a military camp in each of the Free State’s districts. More important were the base camps, where regional headquarters were located and basic training carried out. The most important of these camps were at Eambu Luku, near Boma, and at Irebu and Lisala, in the north around the junction between the Ubangi and Congo rivers. Since the latter region was a major catchment area for recruits, it was no coincidence that the Lingala language spoken there in time became the lingua franca of the army. The greatest challenge faced by the Force Publique in its early years came in the 1890s, in the so-called “Arab wars”.

Source:https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2015/12/08/the-force-publique/

A significant raw material in 19th century that began to surface was rubber and ivory. The products of rubber and ivory drove the economy of Europe. Since the 19th century era when the demand of such products was high, European countries sought to find the supply from various countries such as Africa and South America. The world population was now over 1 billion. In 10,000 BC it was 1 million. The Anthropocene Age was now accelerating.

The chance to supply rubber and Ivory to Europe motivated King Leopold II. Greed still motivates one percent of the world population and continues to cause appalling global misery to the many, whilst the few distance themselves from the suffering. He never set foot in Africa, yet he oversaw the operation which brought him immense wealth.

Rubber was not tapped from the Hevea brasiliensis tree as in Brazil since ancient times, but from vines in the equatorial forests of Central Africa. (The Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of central Africa, covering hills, plains, and mountains of the Atlantic coast of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The vine, Landolphia owariensis is a species of liana from the family Apocynaceae found in tropical Africa. Latex can be extracted from this plant for the manufacture of natural rubber.

Other names for this vine are eta, the white rubber vine and the Congo rubber plant. Congo rubber was a commercial rubber exported from the Congo starting in 1890.

From 1885 to 1908, whilst  Leopold controlled the Congo region,  millions died as a result of murder, deprivation, and disease, with the native population falling by millions in this period; some writers estimate this loss to be as high as 10 million people. 

In the 1870s, Leopold II created an organization called the International African Association.

This sham was supposedly a scientific and philanthropic organization which would greatly improve the lives of native Africans by converting them to Christianity, ending the slave trade, and introducing European health and educational systems. Lies and more lies. History is littered with such pretence at ‘improving the lives of others’ when actions proved just the opposite.

In addition, King Leopold II insisted that he would maintain the Congo River regions as a free-trade zone, and he was given personal control of the region, which was nearly eighty times larger than Belgium. He named the region the “Congo Free State.” He began to economically exploit the region’s land and inhabitants. Leopold saw European industrialization. Vehicles were being built and they needed rubber for tyres and Ivory was increasing in value, demanded in many parts of the world.

African natives were forced to produce ivory, decimating the elephants. The rubber they had used locally to meet more simple needs, was now needed in vast quantity.


Leopold’s army mutilated or killed any African who didn’t produce enough of these coveted, profitable resources.

The Europeans ordered the burning of African villages, farmland, and rainforest, and kept women as hostages until rubber and mineral quotas were met. Due to this brutality and European diseases, the native population dwindled by approximately ten million people. Leopold II took the enormous profits and built lavish buildings in Belgium. He also built this house on the French Riviera, which today is the most expensive house in th world, with extensive botanical gardens.

Image of house


But the world would have remained ignorant of the atrocities carried out in the name of King Leopold II but for a Kodak camera in the hands of a 27 year old Alice Seeley Harris, the wife of missionary John Harris https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/exhibitions/brutal-exposure/alice-seeley-harris.aspx

Image of Kodak camera


Image of Alice Seeley Harris

Image of Rubber Plantation workers

Despite his growing reliance on the wealth of the Congo, Leopold never visited this territory himself.  
To read some testimonies, see http://en.lisapoyakama.org/the-hacked-hands-of-the-belgian-congo/

According to the World History Archives, in 1890, a clerk at a British shipping line, Edmund Dene Morel, noticed that rubber and ivory came out of Congo, but nothing went in except soldiers and guns. He began a campaign in Britain to expose Leopold’s atrocities. Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness furthered social interest in Africa. Eventually, British officials ordered Irish human rights activist Sir Roger Casement to provide a report. Casement’s scathing 1906 report was so severe that London’s Foreign Office would not publish the original.

By 1908, the territory was so poorly managed that an international furor condemning Leopold had erupted. That same year, in an attempt to stem this furor, the Congo was ceded to the Belgium government who took over the running of the Congo after Leopold II was removed from control. They hoped they could prove they could do a good job of running the colony…

5,926 including 3,551 Belgians. There were around 10 million native Africans and the region was in a sad state.

Leopold’s cruel, greedy activities in the current Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi continue to affect the welfare of these countries today. 

And the final word from the blog of  Lisapo ya Kama 

“They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks. I am talking about thousands of men sacrificed to the Congo-Ocean. I am talking about those who, as I write this, are digging the harbor of Abidjan by hand. I am talking about millions of men torn from their gods, their land, their habits, their life—from life, from the dance, from wisdom. I am talking about millions of men in whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to have an inferiority complex, to tremble, kneel, despair, and behave like flunkeys.”
Hotep !

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The 19th century European Curse across Africa: Part One

Image of Tutsi with long horned cattle

In my earlier blog tracing the descendants of Aurochs, I came across the above intriguing photograph. This theme of this and the next blog is due my educating myself about the people with the long horned cow, the Tutsi.

“The Tutsi tribe, which is also known as the Watusi tribe, hails from the African Great Lake region, mainly from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.” That is one definition I found. Another said “Banyarwanda are Hutus, Tutsis and Batwa who all speak Kinyarwanda today and live along the Rwandan border in Kivu province, together with Hunde, Nyanga and Nande.” Of course, in recent memory we are all aware of the terrible genocide in Rwanda. This now seems to me to be a consequence of 19th century interference in African life by Europeans.

What makes the Tutsi stand out is their height. They can grow to 7 to 8 ft.

Image of 20th century Tutsi King with Belgian colonialists before Independence in 1961.

His Majesty King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, a Tutsi born in 1936, lived in relative obscurity in Virginia in his final decades but remained resolute about the viability of the Rwandan monarchy.

Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa, the final King of Rwanda before monarchy was abolished, died in exile in the United States. Here we see Kigeli, second from left in the archival photo, became king following the 1959 death of his half-brother, King Mutara III Rudahigwa. His tenure ended in 1961 as Rwanda moved toward independence at the end of Belgian colonial rule.  His own father had died in exile in the Congo during World War II, where the family lived in poverty after Belgian authorities deposed him for being too independent, Kigeli told journalist Ariel Sabar in 2013. (Source :https://africatimes.com/2016/10/17/kigeli-rwandas-king-with-no-country-dies-in-u-s/)

In Razib Khan’s April 19, 2019 blog, the geneticist suggested the Tutsi are of Cushitic descent. They are more closely linked to the Maasai.

(Merriam Webster Definition of Cushitic : a subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic language family comprising various languages spoken in eastern Africa and especially in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya.)

Here are his results and you can see them and read more about his findings by clicking on the link above.

Images from Razib Khan blog:


Tutsi (sometimes known as Watusi) people may have migrated from the northern Great Rift Valley in the second millennium to the Great Lakes region in search of better conditions for themselves and their cherished cattle.

African tribes lived more harmoniously before colonisation, with typical territory raids which have happened all over the world, but leaving no carbon footprint, showing respect to animals and the environment, and usually, each other. They understood the plants and forests within their landscape, and made use of these as needed, no over consumption, no hoarding. As an example, as with ancient folk of Brazil utilising the liquid they obtained from the rubber producing tree,  the ancient African practices located the milky fluid which oozed from the vines which parasitically wound around trees in the area.  These vines were a blessing in a myriad of practical ways when used in those ancient times, but became a curse in the late 19th century as we shall see in Part 2.

“The Rift Valley’s human story has powerfully influenced Kenya’s history and the prehistoric site of Hyrax Hill on the outskirts of Nakuru town, shows evidence of ancient, Cushitic-speaking inhabitants. For at least the last 2,500 years, generations of migrants trekked into the Rift Valley from South Sudan’s marshlands, from the Ethiopian highlands and from the headwaters of the Nile. Early migrants were the Nilotic-speaking ancestors of the Kalenjin peoples who nowadays dominate the central Rift Valley and play a pivotal role in Kenyan politics. From the early seventeenth century, the ancestors of the Maasai began arriving, also from the Nile and South Sudan, raiding the local inhabitants, adopting their customs, intermarrying and acting as role models for many other people, including the Kikuyu of the central highlands. The Maasai went on to dominate much of central Kenya for at least a century before the Europeans arrived at the end of the nineteenth century.”……..

Image of Maasai

Image of Tutsi


“The results of numerous excavations yielded three major areas of pre-historic settlement; the oldest dating to 3000 years and the youngest to possibly 300 years. The museum displays ethnographic materials of the people in the Rift Valley, and local ecology.”

Source: https://www.expertafrica.com/kenya/rift-valley

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Lake Victoria, Africa : the Largest Tropical Lake in the World

Those of us who live in the UK are familiar with the image of Ireland and its relative size compared to the size of the joined lands of Scotland, England and Wales.

Image of the British Isles


In Africa, the largest lake is approximately as large as the island of Ireland. It was named Lake Victoria by a British explorer, John Speke in 1858. It is bordered by three countries namely, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. But before Colonizers arrived in Africa, it was a central hub for those animals and people who benefited from its plentiful surroundings. 

Image of the African Great Lakes


Graham and Lundelius (1984) claim that it is unlikely that humans have had much ecological impact on Africa’s megafauna because they have been known to coexist with them for a much longer time than on other continents. 

It is a shallow freshwater lake, lying within an elevated plateau, in the western part of The Great Rift Valley. It is the largest tropical lake in the world. 

Lake Victoria receives its water primarily from direct precipitation and thousands of small streams. The largest stream flowing into this lake is the Kagera River flowing from northwestern Tanzania near the Rwandan/Uganda border, the mouth of this river lies on the lake’s western shore.

Location of Lake Victoria


The important River Nile source is Lake Victoria. It was a momentous day for the first explorer who solved the mystery which many had tried to solve, risking life and limb to be the first to declare they had found the source of this great river.
From the largest tropical lake runs this longest river in the world. It flows down through Bujagali Falls, drains into Lake Kyoga and goes West across Karuma Falls, cutting through Murchison Falls and on toward Lake Albert (named after Queen Victoria’s husband) into and through what is now known as Uganda, Sudan and ultimately Egypt.

Image of Bujagali Dam for Hydroelectic Power

Above, image of Bujagali Falls

Above, image of Karuma Falls

Above, image of the building of Karuma Hydro Electric Project.

Hydroelectricity – retrospectively, despite years of building these dams, there is plenty of evidence that it is now an unsupportable strategy.. 
Image of the route of the Nile on its way to Egypt


The Ancient Egyptians prized and venerated the Nile River. It was their umbilical cord. Even today, a common Egyptian blessing is: “May you always drink from the Nile.” In that ancient time, perch fish grew bigger than the fisherman. The riverbank loam provided mud used for bricks and papyrus for books and boats.

The Nile River flooded annually. It saturated the parched land in water and life-giving black silt. The Egyptian word for black is Ar, thus they named the river Ar.

As they worked the newly fertile land after the flooding, the Egyptian farmers thanked the god Hapy and began their calendar anew.

When Egyptian dominance gave way, the Greeks christened the river, the ‘Nile’, from the Greek word Neilos, which means valley. The Greek historian Herodotus (circa 500 B.C.) wrote “A land won by the Egyptians and given them by the Nile.” 

Research led by Christian Tryon ( co-director of the Lake Victoria Prehistory Project (LVPP),has revealed:

Faunal and sedimentary evidence indicate that early humans in the Lake Victoria region lived in a landscape that was often quite different from the present, as Lake Victoria expanded or dried up in response to environmental and tectonic changes, and many animal communities had species compositions without modern analogue, including not only extinct species but also modern ones whose ranges today are substantially smaller than they were in the past.”

When Lake Victoria dried up, so would the Nile, and those who depended on its bountiful presence would no doubt be stricken with fear inducing rituals and sacrifices to ‘appease the gods’.

Freshwater is vital for all life on land, yet it can be withdrawn for many reasons. Since the march of industrial demand, water can be taken as a military backed action to preserve dominant societies and weaken others. Rivers can be diverted to build dams, hydroelectric power plants, or directed to feed cities and deprive rural indigenous people. Clean water is essential to the human population yet not considered as a human right by those few who wield power over the many in this increasingly resource challenged world.

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The Significance of Aurochs

During the Pliocene, the colder climate caused an extension of open grassland, which led to the evolution of large grazers, such as wild bovines. Bos acutifrons is an extinct species of cattle that has been suggested as an ancestor for the aurochs. These magnificent beasts are the focus of this blog.

Image of aurochs


Map of World Pliocene Epoch

Prior to the aurochs, we now know Ardipithecus, an early hominin genus existed 4.4 million years ago.


Image from http://www.astronoo.com/en/articles/ardipithecus.html

Then there was Australopithecus afarensis Lucy, discovered 75 km away from Aramis and who lived more than a million years later, still before the aurochs. Both these early hominin fossils were discovered in Ethiopia, East Africa.

One of the most fascinating pieces of evidence for hominin upright walking comes from the 3.5 million year old footprints preserved in volcanic ash at Laetoli, Tanzania. These footprints were left by a small group of Australopithecus, probably a mother, father and their tiny child.

These new hominids essentially resembled chimps, except for their upright walking. They were pioneers of a new way of living, striding out into a new kind of habitat, Africa’s predator rich savannah. It’s almost certain that one species of Australopithecus was our direct ancestor. For 3 million years, hominids were exclusive to Africa. 

The earliest migrations and expansions of archaic and modern humans across continents began 2 million years ago with the migration out of Africa of Homo erectus, followed by other archaic humans including H. heidelbergensis, the likely ancestor of both anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals, around 500,000 years ago. 

2 million years ago, the aurochs would have been traversing those parts of the global landscape where suitable climate and vegetation existed, at the same time as these nomadic early humans. They would cross into new territory over land bridges, later to be covered by rising sea levels. 

Cave paintings testify to their existence thousands of years later in France – created by skilled, intelligent nomadic hunters, around 30,000 years ago.

Cave paintings, France

But those who remained in Africa, or returned, travelled this vast continent, leaving only traces of their existence for archaeologists and others in the natural sciences, to discover thousands of years later.

“Humans have lived in Africa in one form or another for millions of years, much longer than anywhere else, meaning that many of the living megafauna such as African elephants, white rhinos and leopards actually evolved alongside us. Our long evolutionary association goes a long way to explaining why Africa is still home to giants, and also why the rest of the world is sadly biologically impoverished. ” See https://owlcation.com/stem/The-African-Megafauna

The oldest aurochs remains have been dated to about 2 million years ago, in India. The Indian subspecies was the first to appear. 


Map of Pleistocene World, here showing the climate only 18000 years ago


During the Pleistocene, the aurochs migrated west into the Middle East (western Asia), as well as to the east. They reached Europe about 270,000 years ago. 

Image of megafauna in Britain

The South Asian domestic cattle, or zebu, descended from Indian aurochs at the edge of the Thar Desert; the zebu is resistant to drought. Domestic yak, gayal, and Bali cattle do not descend from aurochs.

Image of Zebu


Zebu cattle, which originated in India, are sometimes known as a separate species, Bos indicus. However, current taxonomy recognizes zebu cattle as only a type of Bos taurus. Zebu cattle are characterized by a hump over the shoulder, drooping ears, and large dewlaps. They are well-adapted to arid, tropical climates and are especially resistant to the effects of heat, parasitic insects, and ticks. (Nowak, 1997)

Zebu cattle originated in Southwest Asia and their descendants were non-humped, they have evolved from three breeds of Indian cattle. The Guzerat, Nelore and the Gir had most influence over Zebu breeding. Zebu cattle are humped and belong to the Bos primigenius species of cattle. They were taken to Africa at an early date and within the last 100 years, have been exported to Brazil and the US.  See http://www.thecattlesite.com/breeds/beef/76/zebu/

The emergence of bison was understood by those who created the cave paintings. The part aurochs played is shown below.

The European bison (Bison bonasus), also known as wisent (/ˈviːzənt/ or /ˈwiːzənt/) or the European wood bison, is a Eurasian species of bison. It is one of two extant species of bison, alongside the American bison. Three subspecies existed in the recent past, but only one, the nominate subspecies (B. b. bonasus) survives today.


Cave Art images which depict the hybridisation (later described as Higgs bison)


Recent research by Authors: Alan CooperDirector, Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide and  Julien SoubrierResearcher in paleogenomics, University of Adelaide
found that:

“The nuclear DNA showed our Higgs bison was a hybrid – a cross between a female Aurochs, the extinct wild ancestor of modern cattle, and a male Steppe bison. We dated this hybridisation to more than 120,000 years ago.

Interestingly, this ancestry was the same for modern European bison, and even though the mitochondial DNA looked different (probably due to the recent population bottleneck), the Higgs bison was revealed as the ancestor of the wisent.” https://theconversation.com/how-we-discovered-the-higgs-bison-hiding-in-plain-sight-in-ancient-cave-art-67231

Image genetic tree:



The first complete mitochondrial genome (16,338 base pairs) DNA sequence analysis of Bos primigenius from an archaeologically verified and exceptionally well preserved aurochs bone sample was published in 2010, followed by the publication in 2015 of the complete genome sequence of Bos primigenius using DNA isolated from a 6,750-year-old British aurochs bone. Further studies using the Bos primigenius whole genome sequence have identified candidate microRNA-regulated domestication genes. But in 2018 – see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440318304424- new research has found:

• DNA confirms that aurochs were much more abundantly available in Neolithic China.

• Many aurochs remains may have been mistakenly identified as Bison exiguous.

• All aurochs belong to Haplogroup C and no direct contribution to modern cattle.

• DNA identified one of the earliest Bos taurus remains in China.

Like most domestic animals, Bos taurus (domestic cow) is currently found throughout much of the world. The wild ancestors of cows were native to northern Africa, Europe, and southern Asia. (Nowak, 1997)

Domestic cows are social animals and live in groups called herds. Each herd is led by a dominant male who is the sole male to mate with the rest of the females. (Hinshaw, 1993; Huffman, January 1st, 2000; Walker, et al., 1975) see https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Bos_taurus/

Image of African megafauna herds today


Three wild subspecies of aurochs are recognised. Only the Eurasian subspecies survived until recent times.

In modern cattle, numerous breeds share characteristics of the aurochs, such as a dark colour in the bulls with a light eel stripe along the back (the cows being lighter), or a typical aurochs-like horn shape.

Five species of wild cattle have been domesticated approximately in the last 10500 years (Helmer et al. 2005)

The first domestic cattle was a form with long horns, a phenotype that is still common in several British, French, Mediterranean and African breeds.


This long horn type developed in Africa and is today associated with Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile. 

But during the late Pleistocene North Africa’s Sahara Desert flourished with lush landscapes, teemed with wildlife and millions of people lived there. This was a period of 5,000 years (roughly 4,000 to 9,000 years ago). But the climate changed again and was once more desert.


The Rock Art testifies to the daily observance of aurochs who roamed the landscape along with other bovines such as the huge prehistoric buffalo (Bubalus antiquus) and the prehistoric ox, both now long extinct. The aurochs was once common across North Africa and indeed across large parts of Asia and Europe. In Africa it seems to have disappeared around 4,000 years ago when the Sahara dried up, but in Asia it lingered on until the 1st millennium BCE.

Rock Art images

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Today’s Hunter Gatherers of Latin America and Africa: part 2

“The Yungas (Aymara yunka warm or temperate Andes or earth, Quechua language meaning yunka warm area on the slopes of the Andes) is a narrow band of forest along the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains from Peru, Bolivia, and northern Argentina. It is a transitional zone between the Andean highlands and the eastern forests. Like the surrounding areas, the Yungas belong to the Neotropic ecozone; the climate is rainy, humid, and warm…….The Southern Andean Yungas begins in southern Bolivia and continues to the north of Argentina. It is a humid forest region between the drier Gran Chaco region to the east and the dry, high altitude Puna region to the west.” Wikipedia

Image of Yunga road


The Qulla (Quechuan for south, hispanicized and mixed spellings: Colla, Kolla) are an indigenous people of western Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina living in Jujuy and Salta Provinces. The 2004 Complementary Indigenous Survey reported 53,019 Qulla households living in Argentina. They moved freely between the borders of Argentina and Bolivia. Their lands are part of the yungas or high altitude forests at the edge of the Amazon https://everything.explained.today/Qulla/

Another area is The Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow mountain valley located in the province of Jujuy in northwest Argentina, 1,649 km (1,025 mi) north of Buenos Aires (23°11′59″S 65°20′56″W). It is about 155 km (96 mi) long, oriented north-south, bordered by the Altiplano in the west and north, by the Sub-Andean hills in the east, and by the warm valleys (Valles Templados) in the south.

Image of The Quebrada de Humahuaca


The region has always been a crossroads for economic, social and cultural communication. It has been populated for at least 10,000 years, since the settlement of the first hunter-gatherers, which is evidenced by substantial prehistoric remains. It was a caravan road for the Inca Empire in the 15th century, then an important link between the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata and the Viceroyalty of Peru, as well as a stage for many battles of the Spanish War of Independence.

Map of Viceroyalty era


In 1985, the Argentinian government officially recognized the indigenous peoples of that country by Law 23303. A cholera epidemic took a toll on the Qulla population in the late 20th century. In August 1996, many Qulla people occupied and blocked roads to their traditional lands but were violently stopped by the police. On 19 March 1997, the Qulla people finally regained legal possession of the Santiago Estate.

The Jujuy Commission of Indigenous Participation (CPI), won a historic victory when the provincial administrative disputes court ordered the state to grant land titles to 120 Kolla communities in the country’s Puna plateau region and in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a long, narrow mountain valley.

The land where the Kolla indigenous people have lived for centuries is coveted by agribusiness concerns keen on extending the agricultural frontier beyond central Argentina to the northwestern part of the country.

Also interested in the land are investors who want to build upscale hotels, and mining companies eager to explore the Puna region and the Quebrada de Humahuaca, where there are deposits of gold, copper and mercury.

La Puna, an arid highland region shared by Argentina and Bolivia and located at 3,500 metres above sea level on average, is bordered on the east by the Quebrada de Humahuaca, which runs north to south. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) added the valley to its list of World Heritage Sites in 2003.

In the Puna region and the Quebrada de Humahuaca, which comprise 80 percent of the provincial territory, more than 20,000 indigenous families grow subsistence crops and raise sheep, goats and llamas. These animals can thrive in mountainous terrain.

The Chavín culture back thousands of years ago, domesticated camelids such as llamas. Camelids were used for pack animals, for fiber, and for meat. They produced ch’arki, or llama jerky. This product was commonly traded by camelid herders and was the main economic resource for the Chavín people. The Chavín people also successfully cultivated several crops, including potatoes, quinoa, and maize. They developed an irrigation system to assist the growth of these crops. This was when many parts of the Old World cultures had no knowledge of these crops, or of irrigation methods in such landscapes.

Image of Llamas

The tentacles of the Old World peoples reach for what lies beneath these lands. In the Puna Region, geologists have reported large copper, gold, silver, tin, lead and zinc deposits and ferrous minerals. (El Torno is in this region). Mining for these, as we well know, will destroy the ecosystem, particularly now with weak laws and powers to deepen debt in vulnerable countries.

Shame on us for what we do, for we KNOW what we do.

And in Cameroon, Africa…….

Map of Cameroon 

Wildlife of Cameroon
Image of hippos (see gallery https://fieldtripearth.org/photo-galleries/wildlife-of-cameroon-mammals)

The wildlife of Cameroon is composed of its flora and fauna. Bordering Nigeria, it is considered one of the wettest parts of Africa and records Africa’s second highest concentration of biodiversity. To preserve its wildlife, Cameroon has more than 20 protected reserves comprising national parks, zoos, forest reserves and sanctuaries. The protected areas were first created in the northern region under the French colonial administration in 1932; the first two reserves established were Mozogo Gokoro Reserve and the Bénoué Reserve, which was followed by the Waza Reserve on 24 March 1934. The coverage of reserves was initially about 4 percent of the country’s area, rising to 12 percent; the administration proposes to cover 30 percent of the land area.

The rich wildlife consists of 8,260 recorded plant species including 156 endemic species, 409 species of mammals of which 14 are endemic, 690 species of birds which includes 8 endemic species, 250 species of reptiles, and 200 species of amphibians. The habitats of these species include the southern region comprising tropical lowland, coastline on the Gulf of Guinea. Mangroves forests, 270,000 hectares (670,000 acres) in size, are along the coast line. Montane forests and savannahs are in the northern region of the country. Important protected areas for these species are the Mbam Djerem National Park, Benoue National Park, Korup National Park, Takamanda National Park, and the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary. Cameroon is an important breeding area for marine and freshwater species such as crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and birds.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildlife_of_Cameroon

Protecting this landmass is a GROWING process! But that is money in the bank for some. It is a triumph to preserve the biodiversity, but human hunter gatherers are likely to be excluded and instead replaced by Park Rangers. Safe places for tourists to visit National Parks is a big revenue earner; and one day, maybe, the greed of industrial investors will dip into this currently protected location.

More wealth is generated by using the remaining hectares for western mining and agriculture companies. The contrasting degradation for the indigenous folk is intensified by the government selling off hectares of land @ $1 a hectare in parts of Cameroon. The indigenous population are surplus to the needs of the wealth generators.


Image of Baka family


“The Baka people, known in the Congo as Bayaka (Bebayaka, Bebayaga, Bibaya), are an ethnic group inhabiting the southeastern rain forests of Cameroon, northern Republic of the Congo, northern Gabon, and southwestern Central African Republic. They are sometimes called a subgroup of the Twa, but the two peoples are not closely related. Likewise, the name “Baka” is sometimes mistakenly applied to other peoples of the area who, like the Baka and Twa, have been historically called pygmies, a term that is no longer considered respectful.”

Rather than “pygmy” these people prefer to be called by their tribal names: Aka, Baka, Efe, Mbuti, and Twa Sua

Map and images from https://myafricantribe.weebly.com/the-facts.html
Image of Baka huts

“The Baka are one of the most culturally distinct people.This tribe live in and around the Maridi and in Yei River Counties, but also have their territory into the Democratic Republic of Congo — Also equatorial to the tropical rain-forest vegetation due to the fertile soil.  Some of their crops include, sorghum, cassava, telebun, simsim, beans, maize, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, palm oil, coffee, etc. The Baka keep fowl and very few goats and get almost all of the resources from the rain-forest………

* The Baka tribes in Southern Cameroon have been living in the forest for thousands of years. But now, with logging and mining companies rushing to cash in on the wealth, their ancient culture has come under threat.

*  The tribe is currently shrinking partly due from deforestation. It is a bit hard to find the population of some tribes because many of them live in remote place and they don’t have a census.”

The habitats of these people, so harmoniously living in this environment, is threatened by those of us who ‘demand and need’ what this area of rainforest yields. We are destroying this, once pristine, location. In so doing, the essential Earth diversity is being wrecked. Globally we see the same pattern- the ancient heritage of peaceful, friendly tribes is being robbed from them and their way of life ended. 

This is wrong headed in so many ways. These people have an alternative way of life to those of us forced to live in cities or in rural areas owned and restricted by landowners. Yet we do not show them respect because we envy their true freedom to be at one with nature, with no improvised laws except their spiritually defined ones. We can never go back to that time when our ancestors roamed the Earth as hunter gatherering nomads. But these people have never left Africa, nor been forced to live in alien places outside their beloved rainforest habitat. 

See  https://www.palmwatchafrica.org/oil-spill/ for slash and burn results.

But now we threaten them, when we should be admiring them and leaving them untouched with no land grab of ‘ownership’ ever likely. That concept has wreaked such havoc on this exquisite Planet. The way forward for humanity is to step back from what little pristine areas of land, inhabited by diversity of wildlife but also tribes like the Baka, and acknowledge it is there but we are not worthy to step foot within it.


https://www.treehugger.com/culture/sos-art-palm-oil-environmental-impact-splash-and-burn.html

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Today’s Hunter Gatherers of Latin America and Africa: part 1

For thousands of years to the present day we can still witness the struggle of those whose indigenous ancestors passed to them the spirit of determination to preserve their landscape and not leave a carbon footprint, nor any kind of Earth long term harm, during their lifetime.

But they were besieged when the Old World tribes came across them. Since early explorers, missionaries first located them in their purity, the erosion of their rights began. The Old World tribal war machine had developed technologies which required funding, as wealth was required to feed the war machines. Wealth meant plundering the earth from that point on, and it meant those tribes who chose to protect the Earth, live harmoniously with it and revere it, were doomed to eternal battles with the Old World tribes.

The Old World tribes believed they were superior to those who they found living harmoniously in lands their explorers found and their nations of tribes robbed and contaminated.

We can now review the history of the Old World, and we don’t have much to be proud of, though we have written our history in mostly glowing terms. But the victors of war wrote that history and the treasures gained from war have mostly perished like the humans who thought they were gods in their lifetime.

There are some parts of the world which are currently still untouched by the contaminating finger of the Old World. There are no human markers on these areas – yet. 

The many tribes of Latin America are not all harnessed by the Old World destructive tendency. Some still prevail and I’m going to try and find out more about these magnificent descendants of Earth Protectors.

Here we look at the splendour of some of the locations in the north of Argentina. Beyond beautiful. 


Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984, Iguazu Falls is often revered as the world’s most spectacular waterfall. Situated on the border of the Brazilian state, Parana, and the Argentine province of Misiones, Iguazu Falls spans 1.7 miles (2.7km) in width, and features 275 individual waterfalls, with heights ranging from 196-270ft (60-82m). The name ‘Iguazu’ is loosely translated from the indigenous Guarani language as “big water”’ (Wikipedia extract)

The fact that the ancient Guarani language has survived to still describe the falls is so appropriate.

‘The Guarani language is an indigenous language of South America that belongs to the Tupi–Guarani family of the Tupian languages……..It is spoken by communities in neighboring countries, including parts of northeastern Argentina, southeastern Bolivia and southwestern Brazil, and is a second official language of the Argentine province of Corrientes since 2004; it is also an official language of Mercosur. ……….Jesuit priest Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, who in 1639 published the first written grammar of Guarani in a book called Tesoro de la lengua guaraní (Treasure of the Guarani Language / The Guarani Language Thesaurus), described it as a language “so copious and elegant that it can compete with the most famous [of languages]”.(Wikipedia)



All over Argentina the indigenous folk are fighting overwhelming threats from industrial action – see https://www.lifeder.com/etnocidio/

Image of Qom child


See https://en.mercopress.com/2013/01/09/indigenous-12-year-old-beaten-to-death-in-north-east-argentina

Horrible persecution of indigenous communities goes on – and the Old World mentality is influencing these events. Those of us who believe in the ‘oneness of humanity’ are horrified at the psychopathic attacks of human against human. Driven by insane greed by the current and transient elite who cling to power. The minds of those already pushed into poverty are twisted by nudge influencers to persuade them that if they want to survive they must destroy their fellow man.

We each have one life and wealth gained in monetary terms is ephemeral. We all know this Planet has a finite life and we humans are but a blip on its great historical surface. Humanity will die long before the Planet, but we are accelerating our own death through destruction of the very necessities we require to continue our existence.


And in Africa, the place of all human origin, we retrace our steps only to destroy our ancestral home and those who have stayed there to protect it.


Image of rainforest tribes in the Congo Basin. Learn more about Congo Basin tribes  

https://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/congobasintribes

A total number of about 900,000 Forest tribes were estimated living in the Central African Forests in 2016, about 60% of this number in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Due to their short stature, they have been labelled ‘pygmies’. They find themselves influenced by the farming activities which reach further into their ancestral homelands.

Our genetics are influenced by our habitat and lifestyle. This shows in our epigenome.

Research on the genomes of Pygmy hunter-gatherer populations and Bantu farmers in Central Africa, carried out by scientists from the Institut Pasteur and the CNRS in cooperation with French and international teams, has shown for the first time that our habitat and lifestyle can have an impact on our epigenome – the entire system that controls the expression of our genes without affecting their sequence. In this study, the scientists have shown that moving from a forest habitat to an urban environment has a profound impact on the epigenetic patterns of the immune response. Conversely, the different historical lifestyles of these populations – sedentary farming or nomadic hunting and gathering – are likely to affect more lasting functions, such as those associated with development, by modulating their genetic control via natural selection.” This study published in the journal Nature Communications on November 30, 2015.

The minds of Bantu farmers, desperate for some of the wealth and power we of the Old World display, are influenced to frighten, even kill and despatch those who dwell peacefully in the rainforest.

Mining is an important land use activity in the forested region of the Congo basin, employing millions of people in the informal sector, and in the past few decades surpassing timber as the largest economic activity. Gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper and oil are major resources that are mined from the region; ……….. mining may be small scale, artisanal, and unregulated. Recently, mining groups have targeted coltan and cassiterite, rare minerals used in electronics such as mobile phones. Or it may be overwhelmingly large ……..

Image of a mine in DR Congo


Loans from unscrupulous companies to corrupt officials make poverty guaranteed for the mass population.

The landmass of Latin America once combined with Africa to form one great landmass. So symbolic. The land was One. We humans emerged and we were One. Now we destroy the miraculous land masses and ourselves.

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