Burkina Faso faces economic threat as gold mining is bound to bust
Territorial losses to rebel groups and 'coup-jumping' are posing a grave risk to the West African economy and gold mining business.
Burkina Faso's gold mining boom over the last decade has led small vendors like Boukary Diallo from leaving the market stands to owning a meat business which supplies a mine near Ouahigouya, his home town.
However, territorial losses to rebel groups and 'coup-jumping' are posing a grave risk to the West African economy and have vendors such as Diallo concerned whether he would be able to keep his employees which only amount to ten.
"Things are getting tight," Diallo told Reuters, adding: "If the mine doesn't start up again in December, I will have to let some people go." The mine that Diallo supplies, Karma mine, closed in June following an attack that left one worker and one soldier dead.
Karma is one of the four gold mines which have stopped production due to security threats after it was acquired by the firm Néré Mining from Endeavour Mining, Burkina Faso's biggest gold producer, in March. One of those security threats represents a risk to the lives of staff such as those at Russia's Nordgold, which halted mining in April.
Export revenues under threat
37% of total exports in 2020 accounted for gold as the country's main export, with mining as the country's leading source of jobs - for one person employed by a mine, three or four contractors and services workers are hired according to the national association of mining contractors.
20% of the mining royalties collected by Burkina Faso, and 1% of mining company revenues go into a state-managed Local Development Mining Fund (FMDL) that finances development projects in mining communities and elsewhere.
In the first half of this year, contributions to the fund fell by 9% from the same time around last year, per the mining ministry reports, confirmed by Julien Baudrand, who serves as senior vice president for sustainability at Fortuna Silver, which runs the Yaramoko gold mine in Burkina Faso saying: "When mines close, the whole country loses out,"
Diallo's business went from a revenue of 100 million CFA francs ($151,399) in 2019 to barely 4 million CFA francs ($6,309) a month after the closure of the Karma mine, adding inflation as another reason for the costly expenses of livestock.
In light of that, 13% less gold this year than in 2021 is expected in Burkina Faso, but the launch of production at Orezone's Bomboré gold mine in September was an exception. 43.651 tons of gold were produced from the beginning of the year to September - down from 50.126 tons over the same course of nine months last year.
As cited by Reuters, Richard Hyde, executive chairman and CEO of West African Resources, said: "We see the gold industry declining in Burkina over the next five to ten years," adding that West African Resources was one of the few companies to begin exploring and planning new mining projects.
Political turmoil takes a toll
Over 400 attacks across ten of Burkina Faso's 13 regions were carried out in the first half of the year by Al Qaeda-affiliated Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin - which is also worth noting that the country has endured two military coups this year.
Just last week, 14 people were killed in two separate attacks by jihadist groups in Burkina Faso's north, including eight civilian army auxiliaries, security and local sources confirmed on Tuesday. One of the world's poorest countries, it has been struggling with a jihadist offensive since 2015. Thousands of civilians and members of the security forces have died and around two million people have been displaced.
Chief investment officer at Equinox Partners Investment Management LLC, Sean Fieler, stated after visiting mines in Burkina Faso in July, that miners have gotten people and supplies in and out of the country, notwithstanding the national instability but continued that "two coups within 12 months is not a good thing, I don't think anyone would argue otherwise".