South Sudan, Chinese oil interests buried 4 reports of deadly, disfiguring toxic oil contamination, AP reports

Oil waste in South Sudan
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/AP)

South Sudan's government and the two dominant oil companies in the impoverished nation, Dar Petroleum and Greater Pioneer, have buried at least four environmental reports since 2013 that show serious water and soil contamination in two states with high rates of infertility, miscarriage, alarming birth defects, and unexplained deaths, Sam Mednick reports at The Associated Press. Doctors and residents in oil-rich Union and Upper Nile states report children born without heads, with intestines outside their bodies, and nonfatal deformities like too many fingers and not enough limbs. Dar Petroleum was ordered to clean up its toxic oil mess in Upper Nile in 2018, but residents and industry insiders say the company never acted.

Dar Petroleum and Greater Pioneer are both conglomerates controlled by Chinese state oil companies, with Sudan's state-run oil firm and companies from Malaysia, India, and Egypt. The first two reports AP obtained from people with close knowledge of the oil operations were compiled by Sudan's oil and health ministries in 2013 and 2016. Dar Petroleum and Greater Pioneer conducted their own separate studies in 2018, both finding significant toxic contamination and health issues in the areas. "The people who provided the reports to AP said they were purposely buried," Mednick reports. "An AP reporter looking into the pollution and health issues was detained and questioned by government officials and government security forces working on behalf of the oil companies"

There is no conclusive evidence that the mercury, manganese, arsenic, and other toxins found in the soil and water in Unity and Upper Nile caused these high rates of health problems, but the hidden reports and outside health experts draw a direct line. Neither company responded to AP's many requests for response. Oil is the only significant export from South Sudan, a country formed nine years ago then mired in civil war. It accounts for 40 percent of GDP. Read more at The Associated Press.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.