Illegal artisanal mining (ASM or orpailleurs) took place on four of our sites in 2016: the LouloGounkoto permits in Mali; the Tongon permit in Côte d’Ivoire; and our Kibali concession in the DRC.
The presence of these miners on our sites is problematic because there is no monitoring of human rights infringements such as child labour. Their activity, if not structured, can increase poverty, degrade land, increase insecurity and release dangerous chemicals, including cyanide and mercury, into the environment and water supply. For example, at the Loulo-Gounkoto complex, water testing of the Falémé River conducted downstream of ASM sites showed high levels of contaminants and dangerous pollutants in the river.
CREATING PEACEFUL CASE STUDY CORRIDORS
In 2016 we made significant reductions to the ASM population at the Kibali mine, and we have been able to peacefully relocate over 75% of the illegal miners.
Early in the year, relationships were tense and it appeared that it would be a very challenging year.
In March, despite a history of peaceful dialogue with the ASM community around Kibali, some members of the community including unemployed youths demonstrated in local villages and attempted to reopen closed quarries. The demonstrations escalated to attacks on police stations and the army was brought in to restore peace. Following the demonstrations we engaged with the Dutch ASM-focused NGO PAX and held a number of workshops to help restore peace in the nearby town of Aru.
Once peace was restored, dialogue between Kibali and the local community resumed – this time with the support and involvement of the government and PAX (who helped to represent the ASM community). With the support of government, we were able to propose the establishment of dedicated corridors of land just outside the Kibali permit for ASM use. The corridors consist of six adjacent plots to be owned and mined by ASM collectives and are administered by the local youth association. Kibali provided geologists to evaluate and provide reports on the gold profile of the land.
While small pockets of ASM activity still remain on our permit, it is greatly reduced and our relationship with the ASM community has greatly improved. Encouragingly armed with their own land to mine and a professional geology report, the ASM community is now looking for outside mining partners to help scale up and professionalise their activities.