Photograph — London Mining Network

Through a $9 million project, the United Nations (UN) is looking to help improve gold mining in Burkina Faso. The program is targeted at eliminating mercury and improving the supply chain in the country’s artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector.

In 2016, the preparatory phase of the five-year project was launched in the West African country. This followed the approval of the Global Opportunities for Long-term Development (GOLD) of the small-scale gold mining sector program by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The project aims to strengthen policy to support the formalization of the sector, introduce a gold-buying scheme, build the capacity of national specialists on mercury-free mining and processing, as well as raise awareness and share knowledge in Burkina Faso’s artisanal small-scale gold mining space.

“The GEF-GOLD program is taking a global yet comprehensive approach, ensuring that effective tools and mechanisms are in place for artisanal and small-scale mining communities to continue to prosper while preserving their base resources, the environment, and their own health,” GEF Director of Programmes, Gustavo Fonseca, said.

Burkina Faso is the fourth-largest gold producer in Africa, producing approximately 27 tonnes of gold per year from over 200 artisanal mining sites. Moreover, the ASGM sector is a major source of income for a large part of the population in the country – over 700,000 miners and their families.

However, despite the sector’s significance in the rural economy, mercury poses serious health risks and environmental impact throughout the country. Thus, the UN program will help reduce harmful risks to the health of small-scale miners and the environment.

“Artisanal gold mining represents a unique opportunity to develop livelihoods in rural areas,” said Stephan Sicars, UNIDO Director of the Department of Environment. “Therefore, UNIDO will provide training on better mining practices, gender, financing, environmental, legal and management, which will support miners to move toward formalization and financial sustainability.

The UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has a comparatively long history in working in the artisanal gold mining sector in Burkina Faso. Albeit, the project which is c0-funded by the GEF and the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC), Argor Heraeus and the government, will be executed by AGC.

Globally, artisanal gold mining accounts for approximately 20 percent of the primary mined gold production. Around 12 to 15 million people (including 4.5 million women and one million children) currently depend on the sector for their livelihoods in many rural communities across over 70 countries worldwide.

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