NAIROBI/JOHANNESBURG/LONDON (Reuters) – As jihadists wreaked ever more havoc in the last two years, mining firms in Burkina Faso rolled out extra security measures, from barracks for government troops protecting them to safe rooms for workers behind barbed wire and mounds.
Expatriates generally fly in and out, while local staff still drive but in guarded convoys. That has added millions of dollars to security costs for foreign companies, mainly from Canada and Australia, operating in the West African nation where industrial miners are forecast to produce 60 tonnes of gold this year.
Yet this week’s attack on a convoy ferrying hundreds of local employees and contractors from a mine owned by Canada’s Semafo (SMF.TO) has exposed how vulnerable firms still are. At least 37 civilians died, with another 60 injured and dozens more feared missing.
“This is the deadliest incident targeting the mining industry, or any private businesses, in the Sahel since the 2013 In Amenas hostage crisis,” said Vincent Rouget, an analyst at Control Risks Group, referring to an attack on a gas plant in the Algerian desert that killed dozens of foreign hostages.
There has been no claim for Wednesday’s ambush, but the modus operandi – a bomb attack on military escorts followed by gunmen unleashing bullets – suggested the involvement of Islamist groups.
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