West Africa’s gold mines are more organized than you might think – by James Courtright (Institute of Current World Affairs – January 3, 2024)


KHARAKHENA, Senegal — I stepped out of a car in this large village near the Malian border into a very different world than the small placid town of Saraya we had left behind 20 miles ago. Around us—myself, photographer Guy Peterson and our guide Omar Diané—generators rumbled, shaking the small bamboo-panel shacks they sat beside. A group of children approached curiously, all wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with the face of Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goita.

A motorcycle careened around the corner, honking to announce its presence and scattering the children. In the distance, I could make out a fetid pond full of trash. No sign of the state authorities was anywhere to be seen. On a distant hillside, little tarpaulin shelters were barely visible, covering small holes and hundreds of men tunneling into the hillside looking for gold.

Artisanal—which is usually used to mean non-industrial—mining in Africa often brings to mind civil war, child soldiers and brutal militias. Those associations come from places like Sierra Leone, eastern Congo and the Central African Republic where fighting over (relatively) accessible mineral deposits has prolonged deadly civil wars. Even in Senegal, which thankfully suffers no war, surface-level gold mining in the country’s southeast is mostly known to outsiders for its associated child labor, environmental degradation and sex trafficking.

For the rest of this article: https://www.icwa.org/west-africa-gold-mines/