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Burkina struggles for another half percent

By Chris Hufstader
The Amara gold mine in northern Burkina Faso is part of an industry that generated $390 million last year. People in Burkina want a larger share of this wealth used to develop the country. Photo by Keith Slack/Oxfam America

New mining code proposal will increase royalty contribution to poor communities to 1 percent.

Citizens in the West African country of Burkina Faso are asking mining companies to pay more to the communities where they are mining gold. A proposal in front of Burkina’s parliament would pay communities just 0.5 percent of gold revenues to pay for health care, education, clean water, and other essential services. Citizens and development organizations in Burkina want to increase this to 1 percent.

Saying that people in gold-producing areas of Burkina Faso “live in a staggering poverty,” Jonas Hien, the chairman of the Publish What You Pay consortium of NGOs in Burkina says “We need to speak out and ask MPs to take a fair and responsible decision by voting for the 1 percent. Future generations will hold us accountable if we fail to do so.”

Mining companies in Burkina, a landlocked country with an average income of US$670, produced 32 tons of gold last year, which contributed US$390 million to the national treasury in 2013. The government has offered tax incentives to mining companies to attract more foreign investment, and needs hard currency to pay back a heavy debt load (33 percent of is GDP). Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in West Africa; 47 percent of its 17 million citizens live in poverty.

Burkina’s parliament is in session until December, and during this time a group of civil society and development organizations is advocating for a revision in the mining code to double the country’s contribution of mining revenues to communities. The campaign will feature media outreach to local radio and TV stations and newspapers, as well as social media. Oxfam is supporting the campaign through grants to a local partner organization called Organization for Community Capacity Building for Development (ORCADE) as part of our global Extractive Industries Program that helps citizens in communities affected by oil, gas, and mining projects protect their basic rights.

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