Amid threats, security efforts on the rise at African mining sites – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – August 29, 2016)

JOHANNESBURG — Canadian mining firms, lured to West Africa by low taxes and friendly governments, must now grapple with an emerging new risk: the rising threat of attack by Islamist radicals in the region.

Canadian gold miners have been among the biggest investors in many West African nations in recent years. But after a wave of terrorist assaults on hotels and tourist sites over the past year, along with a report of a rocket attack on a French uranium mine, West Africa is becoming a more dangerous place for foreign investors.

In a sign of the new anxieties, Burkina Faso announced this month that it will deploy more than 3,600 soldiers and police to protect the nation’s 18 mining sites from the escalating threat of attack by Islamist extremists who have already struck at targets in the country.

Gunmen from an Islamist radical group killed 30 people, including six Canadians, in an attack on a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital in January.

Iamgold Corp. of Toronto is one of Burkina Faso’s biggest employers, operating a modern gold mine at Essakane in the country’s northeast, near the borders of Mali and Niger. The company’s officials, replying to questions about the new military deployment, said they have a policy of refusing to comment on security matters.

In the past, Canadian mining companies have pointed out that the terrorist attacks and other violent conflicts in Africa are usually in the capital cities, far from their remote mining sites. But this may be changing.

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