Mining in Mali: balancing prospects and problems – by Heidi Vella (Mining Technology – July 3, 2017)

Landlocked between six other West African nations, including Burkina Faso and Guinea, Mali is a gold mining star in a resource-rich but troubled region.

The nation is the third-largest gold producer in Sub-Saharan Africa with seven projects currently in operation. UK mining firm Hummingbird Resources?is the latest company to get involved and is on course to start production at a $88m (£68.1m) open-cast gold mine this year. Yet only about six of the country’s 133 potentially gold-rich reserves have been mapped out, offering significant growth opportunities.

Furthermore, the government is keen to unlock the economic potential of its other resources, such as bauxite, manganese, lithium and uranium. In April, the Chamber of Mines announced that following several new discoveries, bauxite reserves in Mali’s Falea project are now estimated at 1.63 billion tonnes (Bt), which is equivalent to 572t of refined aluminium. A spate of investment deals signed with China, totalling about $11bn, aims to unlock the potential of other minerals.

In fact, BMI Research forecasts that Mali’s mining industry will experience a value growth of 10% from 2017 to 2021, putting it above top African mining markets, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

While an increase in mining activity in Mali seems unstoppable, like many other resource-rich African nations, mining in the conflict and poverty stricken land is complex, troublesome and often detrimental to the most vulnerable.

Widespread artisanal gold mining by poverty stricken communities in the West has fuelled child labour and uncontrolled use of harmful mercury. Militants fighting in the north has also created instability in the country.

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