BAMAKO – The amount of gold dug up by people working informally in Mali could soon rival official production thanks to demand from domestic refineries, officials in the West African nation say.
The informal sector’s sudden growth, defying opposition from major commercial operators, is a major boost to an economy suffering from years of political instability. Mali’s government derives about a quarter of its revenues from gold.
It is Africa’s third-largest gold miner behind South Africa and Ghana, and artisanal mines contributed a third of the 70.2 tonnes of gold it exported in 2015. Informal sector growth accelerated in 2012, when Islamists hijacked a separatist Tuareg rebellion in the desert north, throwing the country into chaos.
As the economy flagged under sanctions from its neighbors, farmers and others began digging for gold. The Chamber of Mines now estimates that more than a million artisanal miners work at about 350 sites, producing between 10 and 15 tonnes of gold a year.
Government export statistics put output from artisanal mines at 23.7 tonnes in 2015. Since not all gold is declared, the real production figure could be higher.
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