Gold mining to drive Burkina Faso’s growth but companies at risk

The West African nation of Burkina Faso is forecasting its gold industry will boost growth next year, but the latest report from UK-based research house Exclusive Analysis, warns of increasing risks of kidnap and collateral harm by Islamist groups spreading from northern Mali.

The gold sector in the landlocked nation has long been the focus of interest from explorers, being Burkina’s largest current source of foreign investment.

According to the National Budget Director Hamadou Sangare, this industry alone is expected to boost the country’s economic expansion to 7% next year, faster than the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) forecast. 

However, Exclusive Analysis Africa Forecasting Division said Friday that “expatriates in the mining and NGO sectors are highly exposed to risks,” such as violent attacks and seizure.

Researcher Natznet Tesfay says that only last week the country’s Minister of Territorial Administration and Security warned of kidnap risks for western NGO workers in the northern provinces. “A week prior to that, Exclusive Analysis received credible reporting of likely attacks by Islamist groups in northern Burkina Faso, probably aimed at kidnapping expatriates in the mining sector,” the analyst adds.

According to Tesfay Burkina is highly prone to be among countries on target for “opportunistic, pre-emptive or retaliatory attacks by Islamist groups occupying northern Mali, given Burkina Faso's support for what is likely to be imminent ECOWAS military intervention in Mali.”

The report adds the most active groups are al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which are known for targeting expatriates in the NGOs and mining sector.

“Mining sites lacking their own security personnel or perimeter fence are at severe risk,” the report adds.

Burkina hosts over 30 exploration companies and seven functioning gold production plants.

The country is the fourth largest gold producer in Africa, and the third most explored jurisdiction in Africa.