The Journey from Artisanal Miner to Formalized Gold Trader: Meet Oumarou Diallo
By Eve Sanou and Tegan Holmes - August 30, 2021
Burkina Faso is known for its rich gold deposits, which has made it the fourth largest industrial gold producer in Africa. However, outside of large-scale mining operations, a thriving, mostly informal, artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector exists. The gold trade itself provides huge benefits to the rural poor but particularly the informal side, is plagued by a lack of transparency and illicit activities that make gold trading particularly hidden within Burkina Faso. Due to this para-legal context, gold traders prefer to remain anonymous when interviewed, so as to avoid detection by local authorities.
The European Partnership for Responsible Minerals-funded, Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) –RESOLVE–Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) implemented project, titled Scalable Trade in Artisanal Gold (STAG) is focused on formalizing gold trading operations and de-risking them to encourage the involvement of formal businesses and financial services, and to attract needed investment. In particular, the project uses an ‘Engage to Improve’ strategy to create a replicable, regional sourcing system to scale up trade in responsible artisanal gold with the aim of benefitting thousands of artisanal gold miners by making their gold trade and supply chain more resilient and fair.
Now in the implementation phase, the STAG project has begun to develop a network of gold traders dedicated to formalizing their operations and embracing the tenets of the project. Recently, Eve Sanou, the Compliance Officer for STAG sat down with gold trader and artisanal miner, Oumarou Diallo* to discuss his shift towards a formalized gold trading operation and mining practices.
Growing up, Oumarou did not have access to education, which led to limited economic opportunities and his decision to enter the informal artisanal gold mining sector at a young age. Over the last 15 years, he has worked on various mine sites around the country, which included Gnimi, Bantara, Founzan, and Yabogane, before finally arriving at Gnikpière in 2017. Over the years, he performed a variety of roles along the gold supply chain, initially as a mineral crusher, then as a digger, and finally, as a gold trader or ‘collecteur d’or’ as they are known locally.
In order to operate formally within Burkina Faso, a miner must hold an artisanal mining card from ANEEMAS (the National Agency for the Supervision of Artisanal and Semi-Mechanized Mining). There is a different card specifically for gold traders as well. Without these cards, a miner or trader is considered informal and cannot legally operate within the formal economy.
During Oumarou’s 15 years in the ASGM sector, he has not once held one of these cards from ANEEMAS. Due to this, he has been engaging in common informal practices such as selling gold at the field price or to the highest bidder, rather than at the price dictated by ANEEMAS which, peculiarly, is anyway often lower than the field price.
When introduced to the STAG project during a field visit by the team, he became aware of some of the formal practices that the STAG team will be teaching and providing capacity building for, in particular, the adherence to the due diligence mechanism, the BF-CRAFT Code. When asked for his thoughts on formalizing his operations, Oumarou had this to say:
“By complying with CRAFT standards, and by following STAG’s advice, I will have the chance to be trained on how to access formal markets. By working formally, I will have more income, and it will allow me to help the country and the community to develop better.”
The STAG team looks forward to working with Oumarou, and other miners in his community to reach their economic goals and to scaling up trade in artisanal gold in Burkina Faso.
*Name changed to protect identity.