About this guide

Writing Natural Resource Stories That Drive Change

Are governments fairly and effectively using a country’s natural resources to benefit its people? Are companies making decisions in consultation with local communities affected by the mining, oil and gas sectors? Can citizens see what extractive companies pay to governments, and how governments use the money they receive?

Media in resource-rich countries have a vital role in asking and answering these and many similar questions. But reporting on the extractive industries is challenging. The sector is technically complex and often secretive. To cover resource governance effectively, journalists must be able to follow leads across industries and borders, find and interpret essential data, and translate highly technical issues into meaningful stories with real human interest.

Covering Extractives” is a practical guide to help journalists report with authority on national and cross-border issues in the oil, gas and mining sectors. It draws on NRGI’s experience as a knowledge institution committed to the rigor, accessibility, relevance and independence of research and evidence-based policy analysis. The guide will help increase the global output of high-quality reporting about natural resources and how well they are governed. It intends to help users harness the power of strong, well-researched stories to hold governments and companies accountable for their extractive activities worldwide.

Using the guide

“Covering Extractives” follows the extractive sector decision-making chain, from allocating resource rights, through extractive operations to evaluating the impact of extraction on local people and the environment. The guide explains the key workings of the extractive industries and highlights the opportunities and challenges people often face in resource-rich countries.
It is structured so that readers can start in any chapter—from inspiring examples of reporting on extraction, to different knowledge and learning tools on the “Resources” page. Or users can run targeted searches about a specific subject or query.

This content is relevant to journalists everywhere, although the guide provides specific examples and tips from four resource-rich countries with significant extractive sectors: Ghana, Myanmar, Tanzania and Uganda. Each has an NRGI media development program, and together they offer a useful range of governance approaches and examples of media coverage of natural resource extraction.

Each chapter contains six sections:
Why it matters – the potential impact of an aspect of extraction
The basics – clear explanation of how this aspect of the sector works
Story leads – useful ideas for compelling stories and how to pursue them
Examples of good reporting practice – powerful articles and insights from journalists
Sources and Voices – potential contacts and useful data sources
Learning resources – selected videos and reports to explore the issue further

Each chapter unpacks a different stage of the extractive process:

Chapter 1: The players and the game
The global extraction industry has vast potential to transform lives and yet there are pitfalls that can come with sudden national wealth. Key players in the sector can help or hinder, while strong, transparent decision making can prevent corruption and poor management.

Chapter 2: Licensing
The licensing process determines which company gets an extractive deal, and the terms of that deal—and it carries high corruption risks. It can tie a country to a bad deal for decades—meaning lower revenues, fewer employment opportunities, less local business, and greater social and environmental impact.

Chapter 3: State-owned enterprises
State-owned companies can create national pride and have a big impact on the economy, often controlling a huge amount of money within a country. This can give them extensive power in areas beyond oil, gas and mining. But several have been the source of corruption scandals.

Chapter 4: What’s in the deal
The contract between a government and an extractive company should balance the interests of the government, the company, citizens and the local community. But some companies take advantage of loopholes, costing a country millions of dollars. In other cases, governments might make weak deals.

Chapter 5: Money flows
Good management of extractive revenues can help a country build valuable infrastructure, create jobs, drive growth and attract further investment. Managed poorly, these resources can finance authoritarian regimes, cause economic stagnation or fund wars. In many places, the use of money from extractives has often been secretive.

Chapter 6: Local winners and losers
Extractive projects have the potential to generate immediate benefits for local communities, through employment and demand for goods and services. But communities close to extraction sites also suffer the consequences, such as loss of land, environmental degradation and health hazards. This is particularly true for women.

In each of these stages, journalists have a vital role in raising issues, broadening the debate, engaging new audiences and holding those with commercial or political power to account.

Covering Extractives” is made possible with the support of:

In addition, NRGI would like to thank Anya Schiffrin, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), Maria Sarungi Tsehai, Yan Naung Oak, Gideon Ofosu Peasah and Nick Matthiason for their valuable contributions to this guide.

About Us

The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) works to ensure that countries rich in oil, gas and minerals achieve sustainable, inclusive development, and that people receive lasting benefits from the extractive sector. A not-for-profit organization, we provide technical advice and capacity development, and carry out advocacy, applied research and policy analysis. We also generate datasets and tools to help key stakeholders, including journalists, navigate the recent avalanche of extractives disclosures. Working with innovative agents of change within government ministries, civil society, the media, legislatures, the private sector and international institutions, we promote accountable and effective governance in the extractive industries.
As part of our work to strengthen local accountability, we support journalists and media houses in a selection of countries. “Covering Extractives” builds on NRGI’s many years of experience in developing the capacity and confidence of reporters and investigative journalists to cover resource governance issues.