Sean Roosen knows West Africa well. From the late 1980s until the early 2000s, he worked for various gold exploration and development outfits, including spells in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Life was pretty rough. He lived through coups, brushed up against militias, experienced employee kidnappings and had his equipment stolen on multiple occasions.
“These things are all being incubated in abject poverty, in places where there’s no embedded reporter from CNN – or as I call it, life without 911,″ said Mr. Roosen, chief executive of Montreal-based Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd. “I’ve spent a lot of time in places like that. Nobody’s coming, nobody cares and there’s no expectation of justice.”
As dicey as things were back then, the on-the-ground scene in many parts of West Africa has grown much worse. With gold reserves depleting in many traditional mining jurisdictions, such as Canada and the United States, investment in West Africa has skyrocketed.
But along with the reward of mining riches, there is a persistent and growing security risk from jihadi groups intent on causing chaos. Now, mining companies are taking a hard look at how to guarantee the safety of their workers and investors are questioning the logic of having exposure to West African miners.
In November, 39 people were killed after assailants ambushed a bus convoy carrying hundreds of Montreal-based Semafo Inc.’s employees, contractors and suppliers, who were en route to the Boungou mine in eastern Burkina Faso.
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