AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - The gold rush and its social consequences

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Ouagadougou (Agenzia Fides) - Gold fever pervades the young people of Burkina Faso in search of an alternative source of livelihood to agriculture, in crisis because of drought. The "yellow" gold has now replaced the "white" cotton, as the first exportation of the Country, says a survey carried out by OCADES Caritas Burkina. If 80% of the local workforce is still employed in agriculture, the mining sector is booming. The industrial production of gold increased from 5,000 kg in 2008 to 11,642 kg in 2009. The mining sector is in the hands of foreign companies (U.S., French, Canadian, Australian). Besides the mining industry there is the hand-crafted industry, where thousands of Burkinabe dedicate themselves to this activity, attracted by the possibility of gain, but whose life is not easy.
It is actually about sifting through the sands of the rivers in search of small amounts of gold: a hard and thankless work, done for hours and hours under the blinding sun. "But those who succeed in finding gold can be counted on the fingers of one’s hand," says the survey.
The mayor of Boroum, one of the sites in search of gold, highlights the social harm caused by the arrival of improvised gold diggers: "the phenomenon of the search for gold is very disturbing. When young people fail to get a bit of money, they prefer to dissipate it in large cities instead of using it to help their parents. On research sites all sorts of unhealthy practice are found: drug use, prostitution, robberies and rapes. Some young people go home sick. Even if they have no means, their parents feel obligated deplete all their meager resources in order to treat them. The search for gold is creating serious problems. "The National Executive Secretary of OCADES Caritas Burkina, Fr. Isidore Ouedraogo, says that the phenomenon of gold miners is "one of the main problems on which we have to work.
"This problem is even more important as people have repeatedly rebelled against the mining companies, accused of being interested only in the accumulation of profits and not to build infrastructures and create jobs for the local people. (L.M.)