The struggle against the Sanbrado gold mining project in Boudry, Burkina Faso
In a long-standing campaign against the activities of a gold mining company in Burkina Faso, the community has mounted consistent resistance to forced removals, repression, arbitrary arrests and the devastation of livelihoods. In this appeal for solidarity we ask our readers to support the community with any form of support.
Boudry is a rural municipality in Burkina Faso, in the province of Ganzourgou, about 100 kilometres east of Ouagadougou, the capital of the country. In 2002, gold was discovered in the area around the village of Pousghin, and villagers started artisanal mining near the village. Informal artisanal mining at the Pousghin site provided a major source of income for people of the surrounding villages.
Closing down the informal artisanal mining site
The unlicensed artisanal mining site was closed in 2014 in favour of the exploration of West African Resources’ Sanbrado project (previously Tanlouka Project). Shortly afterwards, then President Blaise Compaoré was driven out of office. In response, those artisanal miners who had worked on Pousghin before its closure, came back to work on it again. However, they were expelled by special security forces, la Compagnie Républicaine de Sécurité (CRS). According to local people, many artisanal miners who lived and worked on the site lost more or less everything. Local inhabitants claim that the market was intentionally burnt down, bicycles and motorbikes destroyed, etc. The anger of the people from nearby villages is particularly directed against Pierre Tapsoba, the national director of the Sanbrado Project, who had been a high ranking politician under the Blaise Compaoré regime. They demand the immediate closure of the mine as well as the compensation of all those who had losses in 2014.
According to local residents, they were told that six villages shall be relocated for the construction of the industrial mine. Though numerous houses have already been marked by a painted white cross that they shall be resettled, no resettlement plan has been presented. If anything, residents have been offered a lump sum and not – as is the usual procedure – a new house. Local informants clearly state that they are not willing to leave the village, as they have been born there and their ancestors have been buried there.
Social mobilisation and protest
On 30 May, 2016, with the support of the Youth organization Organisation Démocratique de la Jeunesse du Burkina Faso (ODJ), the local population organized a first press conference in order to raise public awareness for the harm they have suffered from since the CRS had forcefully evacuated the artisanal mining site of Pousghin.
Recently, according to local activists, the situation has become even worse. Not only that people have been expelled and not compensated, but that in addition, they continue to suffer from the impact of explosions used in the mine with dust and pieces of stones showering down on their houses.
After having approached the municipal authorities in vain, on 15 April, 2019, the population organized a demonstration to denounce the behaviour of the Sanbrado mine. On 16 April, a delegation went to the mine to explain to the management how the village’s population was suffering from the mining activities. The members of the delegation were arrested and mistreated by the police and CRS forces and then detained in Zorgo, the principal town of the municipality, for three days, according to ODJ. Moreover, the police gathered around 40 motorbikes and demanded people to pay to have their property returned.
Nevertheless, refusing to be discouraged the population continue to struggle to defend their interests. They have passed a resolution with their demands, which until now seems to have been forgotten by local and national authorities. The latter, until now, have not even bothered to deal appropriately with the claims. In contrast, just recently, the Minister of Mines and Energy, in response to a journalist’s enquiry, spoke of ‘political struggles’ to justify local people’s anguish. The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Christophe Dabiré, confirmed the continuation of the work on the mining project on 10 May, 2019.
In the face of this oppression, and the communities heroic resistance to the mining company any form of solidarity and support is welcome.
As a contact for solidarity and any form of support:
Organisation Démocratique de la Jeunesse du Burkina Faso (ODJ)
Bureau Executif National
06 BP 9864 Ouagadougou 06
Ouiry SANOU (Secretary General, ODJ) : +226 70278912
Didier KIENDREBEOGO: +226 74176289
Translated by Bettina Engels (Engels teaches at the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany and is a regular contributor to ROAPE).
Featured Photograph: Essakane gold mine is located in north-eastern Burkina Faso.