Sunday, December 5, 2021

Gold mining in Burkina Faso is becoming dangerous

Terrorist attacks on gold mining operations in Burkina Faso are becoming a regular occurrence. For VOA, reporter Henry Wilkins looks at the impact the attacks had on the lives of survivors and what it could mean if extracting gold, the nation’s primary source of income, becomes too dangerous.

“Boukare”, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, is a survivor of the Yargau massacre.

One such small informal gold mining site was targeted in an attack by an unidentified terrorist group in June this year, and killed at least 160 people, mostly mine workers.

Boukare was hiding on the roof of a building, from where he could see women and children roaming around. At first he thought that he was being abducted by the attackers and then realized that he was carrying out the attack. “When they finished shooting, it was around 4:30 and then they started burning [buildings and vehicles],” he said.

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Burkina Faso is the fastest growing producer of gold in Africa. While informal mining is estimated to employ and indirectly support about 3 million people, large-scale commercial mining by foreign companies brought in $300 million in revenue for the government in 2018.

But as groups affiliated with Islamic State, al-Qaeda and bandits have intensified attacks on miners, extracting gold is increasingly considered dangerous.

FILE – A general view of a gold mine site operated by Endeavor Mining Corporation in Honde, Burkina Faso, February 13, 2020.

Since August, there have been two attacks on a convoy belonging to ImGold, a company headquartered in Canada, and another attack on a convoy owned by Endeavor Mining, headquartered in the Cayman Islands. Six were killed in these attacks.

‘Salaam’, whose identity we have also preserved, narrowly escaped an attack on a mining convoy on the same route in 2019. Terrorists had killed 40 of his associates.

He now works for a different company, but said many of his colleagues are wary of mines.

They no longer want to take the convoy to the mine on the side of the road, as it has become too dangerous. They say that after the last attack, the military police was successful in killing two terrorists. “The terrorists are going to take revenge. They want to take revenge,” he said.

FILE - An artisan picks up gold nuggets at an unlicensed mine in Goua, Burkina Faso, on February 13, 2018.

FILE – An artisan picks up gold nuggets at an unlicensed mine in Goua, Burkina Faso, on February 13, 2018.

In recent weeks, mining companies in Burkina Faso have begun transporting local workers to the mines by air rather than by road. Previously, only foreign workers flew to the mines.

But some logistics still need to be done by road.

Liam Morrissey, CEO of security consultant MS Risk, who works with mining companies operating in Burkina Faso, said the attacks could spell trouble for the industry.

“Producer mines have regular convoy activity to keep their mine supplies: crew rotation, consumables, parts, plant and equipment, etc. Therefore, we have seen, similarly, this increase of incidents during the wet season. Also, the incidents related to the convoy. Now, they have not been disastrous, not yet,” he said.

Asked whether deteriorating security could force some companies to pull out of Burkina Faso, Paul Melly of London-based Chatham House said – at least for the time being.

“Burkina Faso is now one of the most important gold producing countries in Africa, and the large number of investors that have come in recent years and the large number of mines that have opened up point to the economic attractiveness, so I don’ Don’t imagine companies will make the decision to exit very easily,’ Mellie said.

Analysts say the major disruption to the gold mining industry could have far-reaching implications for an already fragile state.

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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