Ebola, insurgents and riots: the perils of West African mining – by Ed Stoddard (Reuters U.S. – February 11, 2016)


CAPE TOWN, Feb 11 From Ebola to Islamist insurgents to social unrest triggered by the global commodity downturn, mining firms operating in West Africa face mounting security challenges, analysts and executives say.

Safety is on all radar screens in the region after an Islamist attack on a restaurant and hotel left 30 people dead in January in Ouagadougou, capital of gold-producing Burkina Faso.

Last week, AngloGold Ashanti’s head of corporate affairs in Ghana was killed during a riot involving illegal miners at its Obuasi mine, which is idle as the company waits for a partner for the operation.

“Illegal mining and these kinds of things are regarded as a threat to national security by governments,” AngloGold chief executive Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, known as Venkat, told Reuters at an industry conference in Cape Town.

Obuasi has been a source of smouldering social tension as lay-offs deprive households of breadwinners in a region where each miner typically has around 10 dependants.

“As mining companies lay off employees to protect their balance sheets as a response to the global commodity downturn, there is an increased risk of labour unrest and protests at mine sites as local employees fight to protect their jobs,” said Mark Sorbara, an analyst with Africa Risk Consulting.

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