Gold kills. Moreover, it kills a great many of our children.

On January 30th the Prime Minister, Luc Adolphe Tiao, made his general policy declaration in Parliament. (l'Assemblée Nationale). He spoke on a vast number of subjects, among them the share of gold in the national economy< ; « Mining has become a real cornerstone of our development », he declared.

Enfant cassant les caillous, sans lunettes, sans protection4 enfants auprès de leur maman sur un site aurifère, sans protection...We may rejoice with him over the facts : « With over 754 billion CFA francs (1,1 billion €) from exports last year, 2012, gold has consolidated its place as the number one export product of Burkina Faso ». Mr Tiao specified that the yellow metal contributed « approximately 5% » to the GDP. Around 2000 the country exported less than one ton of gold, whilst the figure rose to over 30 tons in the year 2012 , according to the the Minister of Mining, Salif Kaboré.

But gold also has a hidden face. It kills - and kills many of our children. I was shocked to see, back in December 2009 already, a child standing at a power driven grindstone holding a stone in his hand. He was grinding the stone to powder, pouring it down into a simple aluminium basin. The grindstone gave off a thick cloud of dust. And the child was breathing in this dust all day long. I alerted the two security guards in uniform to this. They were not bothered and simply replied « We are not here for that » !

The Ministry of Mining and the Ministry of the Environment are not indifferent to this situation. The Non Governmental Organisation Terre des Hommes is working hard to try and improve conditions for children on the gold fields. The members of the Economic and Social Council of Burkina (CES) recently - on January 24 - issued a series of recommendations, i.e. « Take firm and prompt action to prevent the presence of children on gold mining sites » ..

« But all this is insufficient.
It is no longer possible to remain indifferent ».

According to the Ministry of Mining there are at least 600 000 children on the 700 sites in the country. A study by UNICEF Burkina records the presence of 20 000 children between 5 and 18 years from a sample 90 sites. If the sample is representative of the total of 700 sites, one may estimate that more than 150 000 children of age 5 to 18 are working on the gold fields of Burkina Faso. To this must be added all the small children under 5 who are there with their mothers and who are also exposed to the dust on the sites.

To read more about the situation of these children, there is a recent article in L' EVENEMENT, a paper produced twice a month in Burkina : «L'or suce le sang des enfants du Burkina » ( Gold sucks the blood of the children of Burkina Faso)

Too much is too much !
Gold sucks the blood of our children !
What are we going to do about it ?

On our part the SEDELAN has decided to get involved in the fight against this new form of slavery. With a twofold conviction :

  1. Each one of us, in isolation, can do nothing . The SEDELAN, alone, can do nothing. But we are not alone. Everywhere, when a new gold mining site is opened, the surrounding population complains of rising costs of living, teachers seeing children leave school, farmers losing their best land … We therefore wish to work together with the local inhabitants, who are forced to accept the mining sites among them, against their will..

  2. To fight against this scourge we must get to know it better, understand its organiation, find out where the lion share of the profits go and who suffers most from this new situation. Here again we need the population around the sites.

We will therefore try and respond to calls from the inhabitants concerned and work together with them , not forgetting to contact those who have gone before us and paved the way on this hard and cumbersome road.

Too much is too much !
In isolation, we can do nothing.
Together we will win !

Koudougou, February 10, 2013
Maurice Oudet
Director, SEDELAN

FaLang translation system by Faboba