By Luke Auman (since these are all apparently posting under Lacy’s name):
Since this past summer, I’ve been working as a student intern at the United States Geological Survey. Most recently, I’ve been assisting Omayra Bermudez-Lugo, a researcher with the National Mineral Information Center at USGS, with some basic research on the mining industries in about a dozen west African countries. As a coincidence (or a result of my lack of attention while packing- depending on how you look at it), I left a USB drive with all the data I’ve collected in the backpack that I both bring to work and brought to Bo. Since I included some of the observations I made about some construction sites in Cote D’Ivoire in my last blog, I thought I’d use the data I accidentally brought with me to supplement my observations and provide a very small amount of context to the circumstances that many of these countries (including Cote D’Ivoire and Sierra Leone) are currently facing. I don’t claim to be presenting any sweeping explanations or solutions for the harsh economic environment in west Africa, but I think God brought me through Cote D’Ivoire- where we were never supposed to be and for 36 hours- with this data because there’s a connection to be made between the neglect that mining corporations show their host countries and the economic depravity that was evident to our team after less than a day.
In 2015, Cote D’Ivoire produced 194,414,700 kilograms of gold. About 20% of that came from Bonikro Mine in the southern region of the country. According to Newcrest Mining Limited’s quarterly financial report for December 2015, foreign corporations own 100% of Bonikro’s interest. The same report explains that a subset of the local community blocked the only access road to the mine, which is why the mine showed lower production figures than were projected. I can’t imagine that the community was motivated to block the road because they were happy with their compensation from the mining companies. Tongon, Yaoure, ITY, and Agbaou gold mines in Cote D’Ivoire all share similar ownership figures. So do the mines for every other commodity in every other country that I have current data for (Angola, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Namibia, and Sierra Leone). I’ve found that a standard royalty fee for owning and operating a mine in west Africa is around 5%. This means that these countries are receiving only the crumbs of what would otherwise be their main industry.
As I wrote about in my first blog, severe poverty has been clear and in our face since the second we touched down in Africa. It’s no surprise that a construction organization in Cote D’Ivoire’s capital can only afford one worker to work on one building at a time. Part of the reason these countries aren’t able to break the cyclical nature of their economic stagnation is that they’re all being deprived of what should be a colossal collection of economic stimuli. I don’t yet know what God was trying to tell me when he put this information in my hands right around the time that I’d be travelling to Africa- whether it was just for me to reflect on or for me to share on some kind of official capacity. But I think a blog post is a pretty good middle ground for now.