Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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One of SEM’s major objectives is to organize artisanal and small-scale gold mining, an industry with major economic and social impacts, through the implementation of the Emerging Gabon’s main principles.

A major issue

Gold has been exploited in Gabon since the early twentieth century. Since 1937, it is estimated that at least 40 tons of gold were extracted from various existing artisanal and small-scale mines on the entire national territory. The major part of this production comes from the processing of alluvial gold.

In 1990, the Ministry of Mines, which was present on the artisanal and small-scale gold mining areas to buy the gold mined, registered more that 1,500 gold artisan miners and the existence of a smuggling network towards the north (Congo, Cameroon, etc.). Further to the Ebola epidemic in 1994 and attacks against its representatives, the Ministry of Mines was forced to abandon that policy.

These last years, the artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Gabon has been characterized by several major issues:

  • informal mining and marketing, depriving the Gabonese government and people from any benefit.
  • lack of reliable statistics due to the non-registration of the artisans and the absence of analyses on the output.
  • basic means and methods for mining, limiting the levels of production.
  • major social and health issues in miners camps (insecurity, prostitution and drug addiction).
  • conflicts between artisanal and small-scale gold miners and the local populations.
  • negative impacts on the environment due to the practice of poaching.

Comptoir Gabonais de Collecte de l’Or

In line with the strategy for an Emerging Gabon to upgrade the exploitation of its natural resources for its economic development, the government decided to restructure the artisanal and small-scale gold mining and become the exclusive buyer of gold in Gabon.

The creation, by SEM, of the Comptoir Gabonais de Collecte de l’Or (CGCO), its wholly-owned subsidiary, is the result of the government’s will. CGCO aims to:

  • organize gold collection throughout the country, and.
  • manage and monitor the artisanal and small-scale gold mining industry in Gabon, especially through the improvement of the miners’ conditions of living.

Organizing gold buying and collection implies in the long run to give the artisanal and small-scale gold mining a status, to aim at the empowerment of artisan miners, to strengthen their capabilities and turn them into real economic players through the creation of a value chain, from the artisanal and small-scale gold miner to the final buyer, via the middlemen.

CGCO started its activities in 2013, the year during which they collected a total volume of 42.9 kg of gold dust and nuggets. That production was sold to the Gabon’s Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, government-owned financial institution, for USD1.6 million. Over 2014, the objective is to double such volume and achieve 100 kg.

Restructuring the artisanal and small-scale gold mining industry

CGCO is progressively implementing a policy for the regulation and technical assistance on the main areas of artisanal and small-scale gold mining with the view to improve the economic efficiency of the artisanal and small scale mines for the benefit of Gabon and miners, to improve the working and living conditions of the miners and to mitigate the impact on the environment. SEM launched various innovations so as to facilitate such restructuration.

Regulating the purchase and collection of artisanal gold

In addition to punctual missions, CGCO launched in 2013 a policy for the opening of buying centres enabling them to buy gold, regulate the industry through a constant presence and provide miners with technical assistance. Two first buying centres were opened, one in Makokou in west of Gabon and the other one in Ndjolé in central Gabon. Overtime, the network of artisanal and small-scale gold mining areas will be carried out through a structure including:

  • the collection centre, a regional entity supervising all the gold collection activities in a specific region.
  • the gold buying centre which is a gold buying facility. A collection centre may manage several gold buying centres.
  • the miners shop which is business designed to provide artisan miners with technical assistance.
  • independent vendors who are individuals trading gold for assistance to artisan miners and would like to engage in a relationship with the SEM representative in a view to sell the gold they have.

CGCO to innovate with NICT

CGCO created « Gold App », an application running on Android and which makes it possible to secure the traceability of the gold logistic chain, from the extraction sites to SEM’s office. It also allows the generation of a database on the gold mining industry.

CGCO’s representatives are equipped with smart phones in which they record all the information (gold quantity, buying price and place) while collecting gold.

Regulating the marketing of artisanal gold

Two additional innovations were implemented to enhance transparency:

  • systematic analysis of samples. This procedure allows generating a national map of gold grades.
  • opening of a smelter for the manufacturing of marked gold dores bars so as to improve traceability.

Technical assistance to artisanal and small-scale miners

Determined to professionalise the artisanal and small-scale mining activities and then contribute to the social development of miners, CGCO launched some assistance for artisanal gold miners:

  • creation of miners shops in order to provide with the foodstuffs that are sorely lacking on some sites and forces artisans miners to engage in dealings, unfavourable for them, with shopkeepers.
  • technical assistance for better equipment and mining methods.
  • formation, over time, of gold miners’ cooperatives .

Protecting the environment

Two partnerships were concluded to mitigate the impact of the artisanal activities on the environment:

  • a partnership with the National Agency of National Parks for combating poaching and the sale of bush meat.
  • a partnership with WWF to share better practices and develop a certification system for the Gabonese artisanal gold.