The relational challenges between mining companies and artisanal gold miners are not new and are fairly universal from one country to the next. As we wrote in two previous articles (Formalization of Artisanal Gold Mining 1 and 2), the role that semi-industrial and small-scale mining companies can play is decisive for Artisanal Mining. These companies, especially, but not exclusively, have everything to gain by working with artisanal gold miners and giving them room to not only subsist but also contribute to the development of the territory shared between the artisanal gold miners and the mining company.
Within the framework of the Territorial Approach, developing relationships of trust and transparency with actors in the field is a fundamental requirement. We are sometimes told that it takes too much time, but in reality, in the long term it is undoubtedly a major saving of time and energy. In recent months, we have carried out several prospection trips to potential mining sites where we want to develop operations. The sole purpose of these road trips is to develop relationships with chiefdoms, artisanal gold miners and government agencies. This obviously requires time. A member of our team is on hand to answer questions, reassure them, explain our intentions, etc. It’s a substantial undertaking, but it will save time later!
Moreover, during these on-site discussions, we are careful not to win the support of those present, who generally represent many people, by making promises that cannot be kept. We prefer to lay down simple rules of engagement that can be exceeded rather than the other way around! Many villagers, artisanal gold miners as well as local authorities have all had their share of disappointments from broken promises…
Throughout our discussions, we remain attentive to the real needs of the territory where we are located. Although we are aware that we cannot respond to all the challenges, we know that our company can do our part, during the months and years of operation, by devoting a portion of the profits to improving the realities of this territory. We have already written about our know-how in the field of water saving agriculture (indispensable in the Sahelian environment), tree replanting, access to water and sanitation, etc. These are all initiatives that are an obvious asset for the communities and that, once properly initiated, will continue to benefit the territory long after the mining operations have been completed.
Finally, creating room for artisanal gold mining in our company’s operating zones is an excellent way to create a win-win economic model. As soon as the prospecting and feasibility study of the mining operation begins, we study the most coherent way to integrate a artisanal gold miner corridor, programs to improve practices and dedicated ore processing areas, where processing machines will be made available to artisanal gold miners, within a strict framework, which will remain under the supervision of Barksanem™ employees. This means that pregnant women no longer have to work at the ore crushing stations, children no longer have access to the very dangerous processing areas and can therefore go back to school, and finally, such a framework means that chemicals are no longer used to process minerals. All of these measures, based on relationships of trust, enable the company to increase its turnover by buying and selling the gold produced by artisanal gold miners and to cover all the costs inherent in this inclusive and supportive approach.
Other aspects are also part of this strategy of establishing the mining company as a development actor in the region. Each context must be the subject of an attentive study of the realities and possible solutions that would be incumbent upon it in order to create a dynamic space for cooperation, favorable to true development of the populations and the territory.
We often hear that a mining company is not a philanthropic or charitable organization. Nothing could be less sure! Naturally, Barksanem™ is a mining company that must be profitable and sustainable. Nevertheless, our corporate philosophy, based on firm convictions about the role of the economy and therefore of companies, positions us simultaneously as an economic agent and an agent of development. The two are not mutually exclusive! At least, they shouldn’t be…