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Burkina Faso mines chamber promises extra security

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

The president of Burkina Faso’s mines chamber said on Monday extra measures would be taken to increase security and help to avoid further suspensions after Russia’s Nordgold shut down a gold mine in the insurgent-hit country earlier this month.

Nordgold called force majeure on its Taparko mine on April 9, citing the deteriorating security situation in the West African nation where Islamist militants have gained ground and escalated attacks in recent years. 

Taparko’s closure prompted a meeting on April 14 between the head of army and the mines chamber.

“Measures will be taken and strengthened on all aspects… to give us even more security,” the chamber’s president Adama Soro told Reuters in an interview, refusing to detail strategies discussed.

Improved security was the way to avoid a “spiral of suspensions,” he said and urged investors to stay in the country, noting 16 gold and one zinc mine felt protected enough by the army to continue their operations.

Soro said Burkina Faso’s insecurity had increased operational costs for mines run by international companies, as staff needed to be flown in or heavily escorted when travelling by road.

Mining sites and their supply chains also require additional protection, most of which is provided by state security, while exploration for new sites has declined, he said, citing the 2019 abduction and killing of a Canadian geologist. 

Burkina Faso’s mining industry was scarred by a November 2019 attack on a convoy transporting workers of Canadian gold miner Semafo that killed 37 civilians and wounded dozens. 

When Nordgold announced Taparko’s closure, it said access to the site had become “quasi-impossible” and was putting staff in danger.

The forced shutdown is another blow for Nordgold as it navigates disruptions linked to Western sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine.

Although not under sanctions, Nordgold, like other Russian miners, has faced disruptions because of the sanctions regime and counterparties self-sanctioning.

Taparko is close to the tri-border area of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, where violent militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State control territory.

A state security vehicle headed to Taparko for a change of duties hit an improvised explosive device on Saturday, leaving two passengers dead and three injured, the government said.

Nordgold did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Burkina Faso’s army said in a monthly bulletin on Monday that security had “slightly improved” between March 15 and April 15.

An army spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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