Cote D’Ivoire – Mining, Growth and Displacement

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Local communities increasingly disillusioned with the promised benefits from increased gold production.

A recent report by Pambazuka News, a weekly forum for social justice in Africa, claimed that the suggested benefit to the Ivorian population from new gold mining ventures has been exaggerated, particularly so for those communities living within gold mining areas.

In the Bonikro/Hire area, Pambazuka described how Australian mining firm Newcrest have seized large tracts of land from local populations, providing inadequate compensation, leaving behind unfixed roads and no drinking water distribution system.

The Bonikro Mine opened in 2007 near Hire city around 250km northwest of Abidjan, with commercial production starting in 2008. Newcrest acquired the mine in 2010 after a merger with Lihr Gold Limited and owns a 89% stake in the mine. The operations at the mine have also led to a large influx of workers, straining local infrastructure and contributing to social unrest.

For the over 500 people displaced in Bonikro and Bandamankro villages, promised compensation, relocation and resettlement schemes have been inadequate. One resident stated that for his 3 acre plot he was given the equivalent of US$400, barely enough cover bills.

Premises for compensation are not concrete in the Mining Code and Mining Decree, although revisions were made in 2014 as the Ivorian government sought to attract potential investors and to enhance the livelihoods of local communities. The revisions state that fair compensation, a local community development plan, and a financial fund, should be provided, but resettlement schemes are often complex and culturally sensitive.

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CC – 2007

After the end of civil war in 2011, President Alassane Ouattara pledged to spur the economy by unlocking sectors for economic growth, particularly vast mineral reserves of bauxite, iron ore, nickel, manganese and gold.

Cote D’Ivoire lies on a rock formation called the Brimian Greenstone Belt, which contains some of the richest gold deposits in the world, and the government believes that it holds more underneath its soil that in neighbouring Ghana, the largest African gold producer.

In 2014 Ivorian and ex-Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba acquired a 5% stake in the western Ity gold mine, a signal of the rising national narrative centered on mineral extraction as the catalyst for economic growth, reported UK-based the Guardian in 2014.

However it seems that the proposed benefits from increased gold production have in many cases failed to materialise; the Bonikro mine case is just one of many examples of displacement and inadequate or non-existent resettlement and compensation schemes.

In May 2015 the Reuters reported on how illegal and informal gold mines are also a huge problem in the country. The United Nations (UN) has alleged that members of the elite Republican Guard are behind a network the seizes control of mines generating millions in stolen revenue each year. The work is dangerous with numerous deaths and injuries, but people are drawn by the promise of payment in a context where employment can be scarce.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Declining Poverty?
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.21094A–21094B

WEST AFRICA: Investment Boom Imminent?
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.4, Pp.20387C–20389C

Côte d’Ivoire Mining Code
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.2, Pp.20323B

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