Gold fever

by Luca Catalano Gonzaga

Gold in Burkina Faso has become the most exported product in the country: last year 11 thousand tons of gold have been extracted, a number that has more than doubled in 12 months. This has been made possible by recent reforms aimed at fully exploiting the capacity of the workers and reducing the costs of gold extraction. Moreover this trend benefits from the rising prices of gold in the stock exchange.In the auriferous mines of Burkina Faso, the security and labour conditions that workers endure daily have been recorded as hazardous.Recently there have been protests by miners over the workload and repeated incidents on the working sites as the tools used for gold seeking are rudimental and the security issues have not been addressed at all: men crawl through 80 meters deep tunnels and in case of landslides they are only supported by earth bags and iron slabs. Women and children are in charge of crushing stones which produce a dust that is a serious threat to their health. Gold seekers are forced to sell processed gold to the only private corporation that has the authorisation to exploit it. The Comptoir Burkinabé des Métaux Précieux (Cbmp), a governmental board that used to regulate gold prices, was shut down in 2005 by a Bretton Woods injunction. The gold market has been liberalized since, so the dealers now impose their own prices. (text by Luca Catalano Gonzaga).